Gabe glanced down at her.
She read the command in his eyes to give her opinion. “It can be done.”
“That’s an optimistic view from a doctor barely out of medical school.” Dr. Patterson’s snide comment didn’t faze her. She’d heard a lot worse when correcting or schooling a colleague much older than her twenty-six years.
Ella stepped in front of Gabe and took over like the CEO she was. Bell admired the young businesswoman’s confidence. “Dr. Bell may not want to correct your ignorant assumption, but I will. She graduated college at eighteen, medical school at twenty-two, and is a fourth-year orthopedic surgical resident at Bozeman Hospital and Surgical Center. I bet she outscored you in school and can outperform you in the operating room. So here is what is going to happen. You are going to get your boss in front of me and allow Dr. Bell in that operating room with Dane. If not, I will flood this hospital with the many lawyers I have at my disposal. Under no circumstances does my brother-in-law leave here without his leg—attached. Am I clear?”
“Mrs. Bowden, she doesn’t have privileges here or in this state, no matter her qualifications.”
“I’m sure exceptions are made for specialists. She is the specialist Dane needs. I won’t say it again. Make it happen, or I will.”
Gabe and Blake stood behind Ella like a wall of muscle backing her up. They glared at Dr. Patterson, who only took a second to walk over to the nurse’s station and pick up the phone. He didn’t look happy. Based on the grimace on his face, whatever he was saying to his boss tasted sour.
“Dr. Bell, you’re covered in blood.” Gabe whispered the words with a gentle tone.
For the first time, she held up her hands and stared at her bloodstained fingers. Her jeans were wet and sticky with Dane’s blood.
“I’m sure one of the nurses can find me a pair of scrubs.” In fact, one of the paramedics and a nurse came up, rolling a cart of supplies and a wheelchair.
“Have a seat, Doc. Let’s fix up that head wound,” the nurse said.
Gillian, Blake’s wife, touched her shoulder. “When the adrenaline wears off, you’ll realize you’ve got a four-inch gash across your forehead and into your hair that’s going to hurt like hell in a second when you allow yourself to feel it. Let them clean it up.”
Bell touched her fingers to her head. Sure enough, they came away sticky with her blood mixed with Dane’s. She winced and hissed in a ragged breath. The anger waned from dealing with Dr. Patterson, and the pain became a part of her reality. It throbbed along with her rapid heartbeat. She needed to take a few deep breaths and calm down if she was going to be of any use to Dane in the OR.
“You got kicked in the head by a bull,” Blake said. “Take a minute to get yourself looked at by the medical staff.”
“You nearly got killed saving Dane’s life,” Gabe added.
Bell fell into the wheelchair, reality sinking in. Her mind filled with visions of that bull still trying to attack Dane and the lengths to which she’d gone to protect him. She could have been killed. Her stomach soured and dropped in her gut. She pressed her hand to it, trying not to think too closely about what motivated her to do it.
She touched her forehead again. Can I do this surgery in this condition? Yes. Her vision was clear, and so was her thinking. The surgical plan had already taken shape in her mind. She could do this. For him.
“Come on, we need to hurry. They’re taking Dane upstairs in two minutes,” the nurse coaxed.
“Sorry about this, Doc, no time for subtlety,” the paramedic said. He cleaned the wound with quick and effective, if not delicate, strokes with the saline-dampened swabs. “This needs stitches, but we’ll close it up with some butterfly bandages for now.”
Great. Stitches. Usually she was the one giving them, not getting them.
The nurse dumped a pair of scrubs in her lap. The paramedic worked fast to clean her face, ignoring the water dripping onto her ruined shirt. She went with it, mentally preparing for the surgery ahead. If they let her operate on Dane. Even if they only let her into the surgical suite, she’d keep an eye on the surgeons and make sure Dane got the care he needed.
She appreciated his family’s confidence and support. After all, she’d taken care of both Ella and Gillian over the last months, but none of their injuries compared to Dane’s.
“Let’s go. You’ve been approved for surgery by hospital administration,” the nurse said. “That’s one hell of a lady to get them to move this fast.”
Bell stood and followed the nurse, noting the feral gleam in Dr. Patterson’s eyes. Not the first time she’d stepped on a man’s ego.