Only Love Matters #Conway Saga 2

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Summary

Who would want to hurt Brad Conway? Everyone loved him, the 'walking miracle man'! Maybe he was just the wrong target?

Genre:
Romance
Author:
Sandie Barker
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
27
Rating:
5.0 2 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1

ONLY LOVE MATTERS

Chapter

1

The theatre restaurant was brightly lit, with high chandeliers as well as wall lights. Nevertheless, on each table at least half a dozen lit candles floated between rose petals in shallow dishes of coloured water. Dr Max Craig had chosen a table in the far corner, close to the corridor that led to the artistes’ dressing rooms. Both he and his wife were well aware of Brad Conway’s aversion to drawing any more attention to himself than was necessary, especially after a concert. So when Brad and Carrie came through the corridor they would be able to slip into their seats without too much notice. If they ever did come through!

Max smiled as he glanced at his watch for the umpteenth time. “I wonder if they got waylaid by some fan. Or someone seeking funding for some other charity event. They’re certainly taking their time!”

“We’re not in any hurry, are we? It’s only been about twenty minutes!” his wife said, taking another quick look at the menu in front of her. “Are you hungry? I’m sure they won’t mind if you order a starter before they get here.”

“Does it really look like I’m starving?” Max laughed, patting his stomach. “No, Ellen, my love. I’ll wait. Maybe Brad’s impatience is rubbing off on me now.”

“He was never overly impatient when he was growing up,” she mused. “He had a terrible temper, of course, but you know that. You were their doctor even before his father employed me! Did you ever meet his biological mother?”

“No. I just know that Brad inherited her allergy to pain medication and certain antibiotics. He was the only one of the Conway brood that I didn’t deliver! Fortunately, he wasn’t a sickly child. You cared for him very well!”

“I would gladly have given my life for him,” she admitted.

“Then I am exceedingly grateful, my darling, that he was never in enough danger to have warranted you having to do that!”

She smiled at him. “Me too, my love. But he’s always had a wonderful physician. I just didn’t realise how wonderful until the last few years!”

Max returned her smile and took her hand across the table. “I certainly wasted a lot of time, didn’t I?” He winked. “But I’ll make up for it, my angel.”

They had been married just eight months. It had been a double wedding, in the little church on Brad’s estate. Max and Ellen, and Brad and Carrie. The ceremony had been for family and close friends. But a reception at the mansion included over 400 guests, mostly from the estate, and no wedding presents by order of the owner, Brad Conway himself!

Brad was not really the recluse that he had been referred to in most of the community newspapers. True, he had, in the years since he had been thrust into inheritance of the vast estate, kept mostly to himself. He was an author of several best-selling books and, as such, he was generally expected to have some quirks of temperament. Those who had known him as a child growing up on his father’s estate remembered him as the child prodigy, a friendly boy who heard music in everything, polite, stubborn yet quiet and respectful. Except for a ferocious temper which usually flared up without warning whenever he became angry, which fortunately wasn’t often.

He had always been an extremely talented pianist, as his stepmother had been, and they had actually been on their way back from a recital when their car had been struck head-on by a Ford Mustang, rolled several times and ended up upside down and mangled in a ditch. His parents had been killed instantly, as was the drunk driver, and Brad had been trapped for over twenty minutes, bleeding and in excruciating pain, while firemen and paramedics battled to free him.

Max had assisted at Brad’s first spinal operation when he had finally been stabilized. He knew his medical history, his startling allergic reaction to anything but the mildest painkillers. The operation had been long and complicated and the results were not promising. It was expected that this young man, the heir to the whole of the Conway estate, would spend the rest of his life confined to a wheelchair. But that was without his stubbornness, his unshakeable faith, and his new sense of responsibility. Brad, at the tender age of twenty-three years, had seven step-brothers and sisters to care for, the eldest, then fifteen, and the youngest twins, only three months old. And a break-up letter from his then fiancé spurred him on! He would not give in without a fight! He would not be the cripple she had called him!

He took his first painful steps five months later, and three months after that he walked unaided! A miracle they said! But the pain stayed. Pain for which he learned to thank God, as it reminded him of the miracle which was his life!

There seemed to be an awful lot of noise coming from the dressing room area and Max turned his head as a uniformed policeman complete with helmet came down the corridor and walked straight up to their table.

“Dr Craig?” he asked quietly, ignoring the stares from the audience members at various other tables.

Max nodded, listening carefully as the policeman bent and whispered in his ear. He stiffened with every word. Then he nodded again and got to his feet, saying, “Ellen, we need to go. There’s been an incident and I’m not leaving you here.”

She stood immediately, grabbing her bag, and he took her arm as they followed the policeman down the corridor.

“What is it, Max?” she whispered, but he merely shook his head as if he could not believe what he had just heard.

There were a lot of policemen about, and Max recognized the stage manager whom they had met earlier. Now he was white-faced and looked at them as if he was afraid that they were going to blame him for whatever it was that had happened. The policeman did not even acknowledge the poor man! He stopped outside a door flanked by two other policemen, and glanced at Max’s wife.

“Sir, I think the lady should stay outside! There is a lot of - blood!”

“Not on your life,” Max said gruffly. “My wife stays with me! She’s not squeamish I can assure you.”

He pushed open the door before the policeman could have any further objections and they stepped inside the small dressing room. The door was hurriedly closed behind them.

There was a lot of blood. Most of it had been oozing from Brad’s chest as he lay on the floor. His white shirt had been ripped off and the young police doctor was on his knees beside him, along with another policeman, both holding wads of the already blood-soaked material in place as compressors, one over his chest and one over his left shoulder.

The police doctor raised his head, yelling, “Where the hell is that ambulance?”

Brad was still conscious and he appeared to be in a great deal of pain, gasping as if struggling to breathe. But he was trying to say something and the doctor glanced at Max, shaking his head.

“You his doctor? This medic bracelet tells me ‘no drugs’? What can I give him for pain?”

“Nothing.” Max replied immediately. “Give him nothing! You’ll kill him!”

“He’ll die anyway if that bloody ambulance doesn’t hurry up!” the doctor muttered.

“Not if I can help it!” Max rasped.

He flung himself down beside Brad. “Keep still, Brad. I’m here. You don’t have to talk.”

“C - Carrie?” Brad managed to gasp out.

Max glanced at Carrie. She was also lying on the floor, a little way from where Brad was, but apart from a graze on her forehead she didn’t appear to be hurt, although she was shaking uncontrollably, tears streaming down her face as she sobbed, while a police woman held her, restraining her as she tried to get up.

“She’s ok.” Max said quietly. “Not hurt. Listen to me, Brad. Trust me. Don’t fight it!” He had been taking a vial from his inside jacket pocket and now was tearing open a packaged syringe and hypodermic needle

The police doctor raised his eyebrows. “You came prepared? Is he diabetic as well?”

“No. It’s not insulin!” Max replied. “Just the only decent drug available that won’t kill him instantly! It’ll give him some relief at least! What the hell happened here?”

The police doctor just shook his head.

Ellen was on her knees beside the police woman, taking Carrie into her arms.

“Nanny!” Carrie screamed hysterically, “He shot him, - he shot Brad!”

“It’s going to be all right, my dear!” Ellen said gently. “Max is here! Are you hurt?”

“No, he pushed me out of the way.” Carrie sobbed. “I have to help him!” She struggled but Ellen and the police woman held onto her, both of them talking gently, soothingly.

Paramedics arrived while Max was giving the injection, and he rapped out instructions as if he was now in charge. Brad was unconscious and stabilized before being wheeled out of the theatre on a stretcher into the street where a crowd had gathered to see the famous patient being loaded into the ambulance. There were two police cars with lights flashing. Already there was talk of a shooting in the theatre and speculation about what had happened. Some said there’d been an argument, others talked about several gunmen. The police inspector was saying nothing. He and Max grimly watched, as the ambulance doors were slammed shut. Sirens blaring and emergency lights flashing, and it was gone.

The inspector gave orders for the whole area to be cleared and cordoned off, and then went back into the theatre with Max. As he did so, two policemen came by dragging between them a scruffy young lout with his hands secured in cuffs behind his back.

“Look who we found!” one of them said with a grin. “Sergeant Davies has the pistol. Looks like one of ours!”

“Get him out of here!” the inspector growled. He glowered at the lout. “You better start praying Brad Conway doesn’t die!”

Max said nothing. He needed to find out how Carrie was and get them to the hospital as soon as he could. He’d already arranged for Roy Clark, Brad’s chauffeur, to bring the limousine to the back of the theatre, where he’d dropped them almost three hours ago.

Carrie was sitting having the graze on her head seen to by the police doctor when they entered the dressing room again. She was calm now, but still shaky, clinging onto Ellen’s hand as she stood beside the chair.

“Is he going to be ok, Uncle Max?” she asked quietly. “He’s lost so much blood! I need to be with him!”

“There’s nothing you can do for him at the moment, my angel. They’ll take him straight into surgery. But don’t worry. He’s a fighter,” Max looked at his wife. “I think it’s best if Roy drops us at the hospital, then takes you home, Ellen. We’ll probably be there all night and you’ll have to keep the family calm.”

Ellen nodded. “Of course. Is there anything you don’t want me to tell them?”

He hesitated, but said, “I’m sure you can handle it, my love.”

She saw the worried look on his face as he gave his niece a comforting hug, but over her head he tried to smile. “Brad will complain about being taken to the hospital instead of his brother’s clinic, of course, but we’ll have him home as soon as we possibly can.

The inspector was conferring with Sergeant Davies, examining the service pistol in the plastic bag that he was showing him.

The Sergeant had a smirk on his face as he said, “We took it right off him. He had no gloves either so it should be covered in his prints. We’ve got him sir!”

Inspector Wilkins turned to Max. “We’ll need a statement as soon as Mrs. Conway is able, and you will let us know how the victim goes on, won’t you?”

Max nodded. “Of course. Are we free to go now?” He had felt Carrie jerk at the word ‘victim’ and now she was close to tears again.

She was very quiet on the journey to the hospital, and Max knew she was trying very hard to keep the tears back. When Roy dropped them outside “Admissions”, she walked briskly next to her uncle on their way to the surgical wards, in spite of the high heels and flowing black evening dress which swished around her ankles.

Max left her sitting in the waiting room with a Styrofoam cup of hot, very sweet coffee, while he went to make enquiries. He was back within minutes.

“They have him in surgery already. We can wait in the recovery room. You’ll have to wear sterile stuff, of course! As soon as the anaesthetic wears off. they’ll send him to ICU. Are you going to be ok, sweetheart?”

“I’m - fine. They do know not to give him any drugs, don’t they?”

“They do. They will only give him what I prescribe. Don’t worry.”

“He lost so much blood, Uncle Max!” she whispered “I’m - I’m scared! What if the bullet…”

“Carrie! Stop it!” His voice was harsher. “Stay focused. You won’t help Brad if you fall to pieces now!”

She swallowed. “I’m sorry! I’m ok.”

“Drink that coffee. Then we’ll get into the sterile gowns. He needs to see you when I wake him up from the anaesthetic.”

You’re going to wake him?”

“I’m his physician! And he’s quite an important chap, y’know! The biggest benefactor this place has!” He gave a faint smile. “I’m pretty important too, having him as my patient!”

Carrie tried her best to smile back. She finished the overly sweet coffee, and had to admit that as soon as she was in the sterile clothes of the surgical unit, she felt better, calmer, professional. She was a nurse, a good one, and her patients had always been her main priority. And this one was the most special of them all!

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