If you haven’t had a chance to read the Prologue you can catch up on that first.
Joy to Be Around
“Are you ready for this, Scott?” Sam asked when he walked into the patient’s room in preop to mark him up for his surgery.
“As ready as I’m going to be.”
“Okay, then stand up. I’ve got my trusty sharpie here to mark where we are cutting. Don’t want to remove the wrong part of your body,” Sam said. “State your name, date of birth, and what I’m doing today so we are all on the same page.”
“Scott Tress, March tenth, nineteen eighty-six. You’re removing a lumpy piece of fat from my liver that doesn’t belong there.”
“You’ve said this a few times already, I’m guessing,” Sam said, his eyes squinting at the humorous tone Scott had just supplied. Some of his patients were just a joy to be around, even in the worst of situations.
“It’s a rehearsed speech at this point.”
Sam used the purple sharpie to circle where he was cutting and then initialed it. “Like I said, we don’t want any errors.”
“I’d like to have kids someday,” Linda, Scott’s wife, said. “So please, only remove that ball of lump and not another…ball.”
Sam burst out laughing. These two were a riot. Scott was lucky. His tumor wasn’t cancerous. It was just a lipoma, but it still needed to come out since it showed no signs of the growth diminishing.
His wife and he were taking it all in stride and living life to the fullest. That’s the way they should. The way he was living his life.
Nothing holding him back. Nothing tying him down.
Fun with no strings, no commitments, and no stress.
His job was stressful enough, thank you very much.
When the curtain opened, Sam turned to see his cousin Wyatt standing there. “Hi, I’m Dr. Fierce and I’m going to put you to sleep today,” Wyatt said.
“Oh man,” Linda said. “Are you guys brothers? There are two of you?”
Wyatt looked at him and grinned. “Nope. We’re cousins though. I’m the other Dr. Fierce since Sam is the OG. He’s the oldest of the whole clan of us.”
“Clan?” Scott asked. “How many is that?”
“Well now,” Sam said, scratching his chin. “I’ve got two younger brothers. Wyatt has twin older brothers and a twin sister. Then we’ve got the quintuplets of the family. Four boys and another girl.”
“Wow,” Linda said. “How many of you are single? I’ve got two sisters and, damn, they’d be drooling right now.”
“Don’t do it,” Scott said earnestly. “Her sisters are psycho. Run while you can.”
“The quints, or the Fierce Five as they’ve always been called, are all taken. The rest of us though, we’re enjoying the single life. Work calls,” Wyatt said, holding his laptop up. Sam couldn’t agree more with those thoughts.
“Are you all doctors?” Linda asked. She was rubbing her hands together and Sam had a feeling this wasn’t going to drop anytime soon.
“No. Just Wyatt and I. He puts them to sleep, and I do all the magic.”
Wyatt snorted. “Magic. He couldn’t do what he does if it wasn’t for me sending everyone into the dreamland.”
“So what do the rest of you do?” Scott asked.
“Let’s see. Since we’ve got time to kill,” Sam said. “In my family, there’s me, then Bryce, he’s a Chemistry professor at Duke, and the baby is Ryder who is an architect for our fathers’ firm.”
“Father’s, as in both of your fathers?” Linda asked. Normally Sam wasn’t this talkative, but he was really taken with this couple and Wyatt was always one to sit and chat. Besides, they were still waiting on the OR to be prepped.
“My and Wyatt’s dads are twins and engineers. It’s the family business. Though Wyatt and I didn’t go into that business.”
“So what about your family?” Scott asked Wyatt, getting more comfortable on the bed. If that was possible. These temporary rooms did have TVs to pass the time, but the curtains didn’t provide much privacy for people lying in a bed with a gown on and nothing else.
“My older brother, Drake, is an engineer, Noah, his twin, is a high school principal. Then there’s me, and my sister, Jade, is also an engineer.”
“Where did the teaching positions come from?” Linda asked, scrunching her nose like she didn’t approve for some reason. That was odd.
“Our mothers are teachers. So really everyone followed in our parents’ footsteps but Wyatt and I,” Sam said. “We’re the rebels.”
“Any relation to the Fierce beer?” Scott asked.
“Funny you should ask that,” Wyatt said. “That would be the Fierce Five. Our cousins.”
“That is so cool,” Scott said. “Bet you guys have some serious family get-togethers.”
“It’s been known to happen,” Wyatt said. “So I know Sam made you state your name and date of birth, but I need to do it too. Why don’t we get this squared away and then one of my assistants is going to come in and give you the happy juice once the room is ready. Shouldn’t be much longer.”
“Guess we should get back on track now and get this thing out of me. But when it’s all done, I’m going to toast both of you with a bottle of my favorite Fierce brew.”
“We’ll do the same to you,” Sam said.
Several hours later, Sam let himself into his parents’ home for dinner. Once a month or so he came home for dinner. So did his brothers. It just didn’t seem to be the same day and that was fine.
His parents preferred having one-on-one time with each of the kids their whole life. They’d always worried someone would feel slighted for some reason.
Deep down as the oldest, he was kind of glad he got the attention. Once his brothers came along, he didn’t get as much. He wasn’t jealous by any means, but in a family as big as theirs, people tended to get pushed aside if they didn’t find a way to stand out.
Then throw in the fact he didn’t follow in his parents’ footsteps with academia or engineering and he felt he’d let them down at some point.
They’d never given any indication they were disappointed in him. Just the opposite.
But he always wondered if his father was upset that the oldest of the family wasn’t going to work for the firm.
“Sweetie,” his mother said when he walked in the door. “You’re earlier than I thought you’d be.”
“Surgery went pretty smoothly today. I like days like that,” he said back. “Did I beat Dad home?”
“He’ll be here in a few minutes. Why don’t you go get yourself a beer and go sit on the back deck? It’s a beautiful fall day.”
“That sounds just like what the doctor ordered,” he said and smiled over his mother’s giggle. She’d always been one to giggle and he found it humorous. She was the glue that kept them all together in the house. She barely topped his father’s chest, but she had the biggest heart and the strongest presence and nature.
He’d didn’t even have time to pour his beer before his father opened up the sliding glass doors and walked out to sit next to him.
All the Fierce men were big. His uncle Gavin was the oldest and the biggest at six foot five, but his father and Uncle Garrett weren’t far behind at six foot three. Sam was thankful he had his father’s height. All the boys did, which was funny since their mother was only five foot five.
“How’s work going, Dad?” Sam asked.
“Work is work. Just like it is for you too. No need to talk about that tonight,” his father said. He wasn’t sarcastic by any means, but Sam still wondered if something was going on that he should be paying more attention to. Maybe he needed to talk to his brothers and see if he was missing something. His father was normally more outgoing, talkative, or even happy.
He didn’t have a chance to say anything else before his mother came out with a glass of ice tea and sat next to them. “Sam, you need a haircut,” she said.
He ran his hand through his dark wavy hair. “I know. It’s just finding the time.”
“I’ve got a place you can go. They’re open until eight some nights. Better than the barbershop that closes early on you. Then you can see the same person all the time.”
He looked at his mother’s stylish bob. “I don’t need a hairdresser.”
“Sure you do. Every time you go to the barbershop someone different cuts it and it’s never the same.”
“Does it really matter?” he asked, wondering where this conversation was coming from. He couldn’t remember the last time his mother commented on his hair. Maybe high school when he wanted to grow it long. His wavy locks looked more like a wild perm from a nineties hair band than what he’d been trying to accomplish.
“Hang on,” his mother said and jumped up fast to leave the deck. He looked at his father only to get the normal shake that silently said not to argue with the lone estrogen-bearing human in the household. She returned and handed over a card. “Here. Ask for Dani. She owns the place.”
“I don’t need to see the same person as you,” he said, laughing, and could only imagine what his hair would look like when he left. A bowl being placed on his head came to mind.
“No. I wouldn’t do that to you. Dani is younger. I just see one of her employees. Someone closer to my age. Every time I go in there Dani has younger people in the chairs. Not just women either,” she said before he could make another comment.
He learned you picked your battles and this wasn’t worth arguing, so he said, “Fine. I’ll think about it.”
“Don’t think about it. Do it. Otherwise I’m going to start calling you Sammy.”
“Please don’t,” he said, knowing he’d call and ask for Dani as soon as he left. That stupid long hair stage had his mom calling him Sammy Hagar.
“Then do as your mother says and make the call.”
“Fine,” he said, putting the card in his pocket.
“Could you be any more obvious?” Grant asked his wife, Diane, the minute Sam was out the door.
“What?” Diane said.
“Giving him a card and telling him to get his hair cut. I can’t believe you.”
“I’m not waiting around. Even Ella got engaged a few months ago. Come on. We shouldn’t be this far behind Gavin and Jolene. We’ve got two of the oldest kids in the family.”
“That doesn’t mean you need to be so in Sam’s face about this. And I thought you and I were going to talk about it together. You just decided this Dani woman was good enough to set your son up with. Why?”
“I listened to what Jolene said. She said that I should go with my gut. I’ve seen Dani in the salon. She’s a hard worker. She’s cute, she’s funny, and she doesn’t seem to take much seriously other than her work. Her staff talk highly of her and she’s not so loud that she’d be obnoxious. She seems to just enjoy life in general.”
“That’s the last person you want to set Sam up with. That’s exactly how he is,” Grant argued. What was wrong with his wife? This was going to blow up in their faces before it even started.
“You’re missing the point. If you put two of them together that think alike, one of them may want something serious and work hard to get it.”
“Are you sure that tea of yours isn’t spiked? Like you said, the big word is may.”
Diane laughed. “Of course not. You were so bent about me bringing this up tonight and it went just fine. Trust me on this. Jolene would never steer us wrong.”
“Just because Jolene had success setting up her boys doesn’t mean we are going to.”
“We’re going to be just as successful. We just have to work a little harder. Jolene had it made finding employees for the business. We can’t do that with two of our boys. So when Ryder’s time comes, you’ll have to put more effort into that one. This one is on me. Let’s just see how it goes,” she said, standing up and walking over to sit on his lap in the living room.
“I hope it doesn’t backfire on us. Our boys aren’t stupid. They probably know we are up to something at this point. And they know their five cousins were all set up. Everyone knows it. Do you really think they’re not going to realize we’re doing the same thing?”
“Let them think it,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s a secret or not. I just want them to settle down. It has to start with Sam. He’s the most serious of them.”
“Bryce is the most serious, not Sam. Sam is just a playboy,” he argued.
“Sam is too serious about life in general. Everything but women. It’s time he got serious about a woman and I think Dani is the one for him.”
“Why is that?” he asked. “Because you feel it in your gut?”
“I felt it with you and I feel it for Sam.”