Harlow a military bad bo.., p.12
Harlow: A Military Bad Boy Romance: The Bradford Brothers, page 12
“Unfuckingbelievable,” Ramsey mutters.
“Yeah. It makes no sense.”
“Sure it does. The chick is crazy, and being in heat for you turns her even crazier. She wants to keep you on a short leash. Figured if she strung it out long enough, had enough one on one sessions with you at work and in the sheets, that eventually you’d put a ring on it. Happens all the time.”
It doesn’t feel like that was what was happening with us. But I don’t say anything. Obviously I don’t know much about how evil women can be, since I’ve never liked one enough to care.
The reason I’m riding with Ramsey instead of Jensen— other than the fact that Jensen rides everywhere on his motorcycle while Ramsey drives like me— is because I wanted to talk to him about Whitney privately, instead of Jensen this time. Ramsey is the Last Man Standing— the only one among us who hasn’t fallen for some chick. He is the only voice of reason that hasn’t been clouded by possibly bad judgment.
Sure, Jensen was no fan of Whitney’s but he’d also let the silly “it doesn’t happen until it happens” talk slip through, which had derailed me. I know I won’t get any such crazy talk from Ramsey.
“Well now she keeps calling me, and I’m sure she’s going to try to give me some bullshit story that I’m just not in the mood to hear.”
“Yeah, you need to stay strong, Harlow. If you even go near her, you might cave.”
“That’s unlikely to happen. Dr. Davis assigned me to some new physical therapist.”
“Thank goodness you have him looking out for you,” Ramsey says. “Or who knows how long she’d be pulling these stunts while you were too love- blind to wake up and figure it out.”
“Yeah. Thank goodness for Dr. Davis.”
Story of my life, I think, and I don’t know why I’m beginning to resent Dr. Davis for that. Would it have been better for him to have just let me stumble my way through my mistakes until I figured it out on my own?
Of course not. Not for him— he wants me back to where the military will thank him for returning a Special Ops member— and not for me— I want to be back more than anything.
I just think I wanted more time to figure it out, because that would have given me more time with Whitney. Who I need to remember is the enemy. And who was distracting me from my goal.
As Ramsey pulls up to the cemetery, my phone vibrates again.
“I’m going to step out. She’s calling again, and I’m going to tell her to leave me the fuck alone. So that my mind will be free to concentrate on Dad’s birthday.”
“There you go,” he says. “Stay strong. Don’t even listen to her words or you might start falling for them.”
I walk around to a shaded area and look at Whitney’s name flashing across my screen, for what I hope will be the last time.
“What?” I answer my phone, annoyed.
“Harlow. I’ve been trying to get a hold of you…”
“So I noticed,” I tell her, determined to stand my ground, even though I hate that her voice sounds afraid and worried. “Did you ever stop to think that if a guy doesn’t pick up after you’ve called him… I don’t know, eight or so times?.... that it might be a good idea to just stop calling him?”
“Harlow. I get that you might be confused. But we need to talk. Can you meet me—”
“No I can’t meet you,” I tell her, disgusted. She thinks we can just kiss and make it all better. She clearly doesn’t know who she’s dealing with. “I don’t want anything to do with you, ever again. Don’t call me, don’t try to see me, don’t ask me to meet you.”
It’s one last plaintive attempt, but I refuse to fall for it.
“Please, Whitney. If I ever meant anything to you, then promise me you’ll leave me the hell alone.”
“Okay.” Her sigh sounds like one of those balloons that has had a small hole in it, that was struggling to stay in the air but finally admits to defeat as all air is being deflated from it. “Goodbye, Harlow.”
And good riddance.
Trying to choke back a mixture of overwhelming feelings, I join my brothers at my dad’s grave. It’s been a while since I’ve been here, but the tombstone is still familiar and welcoming in a sad sort of way.
Devoted Father and Beloved Friend.
Ramsey clears his throat.
“I know that none of us are religious men,” he begins. “So a prayer doesn’t seem appropropriate. But I thought we might say a few words about or to Dad. Does anyone want to start?”
“I will,” Jensen says.
He probably comes here more than any of us, and he’s used to talking to our father.
“Dad, since I’ve last been here, things have turned out pretty well for me. So I wanted to thank you for continuing to be here for me, even from… wherever it is that you are. My case turned out okay. My lawyer turned out to be more than okay. In fact, I’m going to ask her to marry me.”
“Woah,” Ramsey whistles, and I look at him in surprise.
“What a way to tell us!” I exclaim.
“I wanted Dad, and you two, to be the first to know.”
He looks so happy that I almost start to believe in love— for him, of course. Not for suckers like Dad and me.
“Congratulations,” Jensen and I both say, each patting him on the back.
“Good job, little brother,” says Ramsey. “I’m proud of you.”
“I’ll go next,” I say.
I look down at his gravesite and take another deep breath. I’m always bad at this— talking to my dad. But I feel that it’s an important tradition for my brothers and me to keep up, so I try anyway.
“I think of you often, Dad, and I always try to make you proud. I’m fighting hard to get back in with my unit. Everything’s going fine after my accident, and I’m pretty much back to new. So don’t worry. Love you, Dad.”
Now my brothers squeeze my shoulders. It feels good to have them with me on a sad day like this. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
“Okay, so I’m up,” says Ramsey, and he bends down to retrieve his guitar from its case. “Dad, I want you to know that everything’s good. We’re all good, we all miss you. Mom’s doing okay.”
Jensen and I look at each other uncomfortably.
“I mean, she’s had a few small set- backs but I just saw her yesterday and she’s back to doing well. I’m looking out for her, Dad, just like you always did. So don’t worry.”
I feel a pang of sadness, for how badly Ramsey wants to be like our dad, and to take care of all of us, even Mom. He’s always been the strong one among us, no matter what.
“I’ve been doing a little… music therapy,” he says, causing Jensen and I to raise an eyebrow at each other. “And I wrote this song for you. It’s what I’ve been wanting to say for a long time. I wanted to play it here for you, on your birthday.”
He begins strumming his guitar, and softly humming. He’s actually pretty good. Jensen and I look again at each other, but this time it’s with a look of amazement.
He sings a soft verse and then his voice gets louder and stronger on the touching refrain.
I always wanted to say goodbye.
But how can I do that when I can’t let go?
I never wanted to say goodbye.
Because you’re still with me, wherever I go.
After he’s finished, we stand still in silence.
I’m thinking about my dad, Ramsey’s song, and how it’s true that I never wanted to say goodbye to Dad, and how I probably will never be ready to do that, although I had to long ago. And I can’t help thinking the same thing about Whitney.
I’m so mad at her, but I still can’t get her out of my head. What’s it going to take for me to be able to let her go?
My doorbell rings, awakening me from a de
I stumble out of bed and answer the door unabashedly in my pajamas. I’m surprised when bright light is the only thing that greets me.
It’s not Harlow. It’s no one. Just a package my postman left at the front door. My latest installment from my Books & Bubble Bath subscription. Great. As if I didn’t already feel like a walking cliché, now I’m seriously thinking of trying to mend my broken heart by losing myself in a romance novel while soaking in the tub.
I’m surprised to find that it’s mid- afternoon. I’ve been sleeping for a really long time.
I admit it. I called in to work, decided to skip my classes, and took a mental health day. This is my very first one, ever.
I’ve heard of such things, but I thought they were for weak- minded idiots. The type of person who fall in love with someone who would believe a smarmy doctor over them, and who would be so morose once that person breaks up with them that they need to stay in bed all day, and maybe stay in the bath tub all evening to boot.
And then I decide to take action. I don’t deserve a bubble bath until I’ve figured out what Dr. Davis’ deal is.
Clearly Harlow doesn’t want anything to do with me right now, and how can I blame him, when undoubtedly Dr. Davis got to him first and painted me as some crazy stalker who is making Harlow look bad so that I can have him all to myself?
I need to figure out a way to convince Harlow that it’s Dr. Davis— not me— who can’t be trusted. I need to do it to possibly save my relationship with Harlow, and to save my job.
On a hunch, I drive to Dr. Davis’ office. This is risky, as either Dr. Davis or Harlow could see me, but at this point, what do I have to lose? I park in the far end of the parking lot, furthest away from the entrance, trying to formulate a plan.
I think about what I know, which isn’t much, except that Harlow is the only patient Dr. Davis latches on to so tightly. There’s no one else he touts as being a success story, or brags about, or makes work for him. So what is it about Harlow that Dr. Davis needs so badly? And what is it about his other patients that isn’t worthy of public attention?
I wonder if I should wait until I see Dr. Davis come out, and somehow go in and steal all his files. I wish I had a good disguise so that I could pretend to be a different patient myself. Or so that I could sneak in and talk to them.
None of these ideas are very good, but at least I’m doing something besides sleeping or taking a bath. It has to be a step in the right direction. I know I need to have hard evidence to expose Dr. Davis as the fraud I believe him to be— although I have no idea what kind of fraud, or how, or for what reason— and even if I don’t get this evidence—even if I play ball and don’t say a word— he’ll likely find a way to destroy my career.
As Harlow would say, it’s time to go big or go home.
As I rack my brain, I see a lone figure exit the clinic and enter the parking lot. He’s limping, and it looks like the simple task of walking to his car is difficult for him. As he gets a big closer, I can see that he’s wearing a mask of some sort.
Here’s my chance. I jump out of my car and head his way, hoping that neither Dr. Davis nor Harlow are around, and that they won’t happen to walk outside and spot me here.
“Hello there,” I call out, extending an arm when I’m close enough. “Would you like help walking to your car?”
“No, I’m fine,” he says.
But then he takes my arm anyway. “Well, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. No problem. How are you today?”
“I’ve been better.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
Hoping I don’t seem too out of place, I add, “I’m Whitney Reid.”
“Jesse Morrow,” he says. Then he takes a deep breath, and then asks, “Do you work here? With Dr. Davis?”
“Me? No? Well… not exactly.”
I decide to tell him the truth. That’s often the best route.
“I work as a physical therapist at Piñon Physical Therapy. I do help some of Dr. Davis’ patients there, yes.”
He frowns, and then points. “That’s my car over there. I’ve heard of you guys.”
As we walk to his car, an older and unassuming Buick, I think, of course he has heard of us. It’s the newest collaboration. They come to us when they’re done with Dr. Davis.
“I’ve heard it’s where the lucky ones get to go. Like Harlow.”
My ears perk up.
“Yeah, the ones who have hope of getting better. I’m not one of them.”
“You’re not? Why not?”
We’re at his car now, so I drop his arm, but he just stands there, still talking to me, luckily.
“I don’t know. I guess from what Dr. Davis said I’m pretty much a lost cause. They can’t do much to help me.”
I’m astonished. How could physical therapy not at least somewhat benefit any injured service member?
“Yeah, and I even got to talk to Harlow before my surgery. I’m kind of mad at him actually. He made it seem like it was so easy. Almost like some miracle. I was also hoping he would come to my surgery, which I know it probably too big of a request and that he’s probably really busy, but I never heard anything else from him. But I guess he can’t spend a lot of time with everyone. And that not everyone can expect as good of an outcome as he’s had. I’m trying hard not to take it personally. I’m trying hard not to be completely pessimistic, actually.”
I frown. It surprises me that Harlow wasn’t there for him when he’d requested it. That doesn’t seem like Harlow.
But then again, perhaps I’d misjudged Harlow and built him up into some sort of schoolgirl crush fantasy. It has nothing to do with how Jesse is feeling. I really wish there was something I could do to help him.
But I’m no one. Just an intern. And if I even give up a hint of trying to help a patient of Dr. Davis’ that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about, I’ll definitely be out of that internship.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I tell him.
“Thank you for the help,” he says, with half a smile.
He opens his car and I help him slowly lower himself into it. The least that Dr. Davis’ staff could have done was walk him to his car, I think.
As he nods at me and drives away, I know what I have to do.
Somehow I have to get access to Dr. Davis’ files.
I’m back at Piñon, but this time I won’t be working with Whitney. In fact, I hope not to have to see her here at all. I’m meeting with the new physical therapist assigned to me, Lance, who is one of Whitney’s bosses, and who showed up to watch me do the track exercises.
I’m glad he’s familiar with my case although I’m a little afraid that Whitney may have poisoned him against me, because I know they’re friends. Her loser ex was afraid she was cheating on him with Lance, who is gay, when really Whitney was just tired of his antics. Like I got tired of hers.
Still, though, Lance had seen me perform the track exercises with his own two eyes. He has to know independently of Whitney that I’m fit for service, or else he’ll see that soon.
I do my best to make a good impression when I first meet him, but soon I find out he’s a nice guy who doesn’t need pretenses.
“Harlow, good to see you again,” he says, clamping a strong yet friendly hand down on my shoulder. “I’m Lance. I’m honored to be able to work with you.”
“Same here,” I say. “I’ve put in some time with Whitney but I hear you’re even more experienced.”
“Yes. Yes. Now about that… I know you’ve already gone through some of this with her, and I hate to be redundant. But just so that I have a good understanding of where we are on things, I’m going to ask you to do some of the same things, if that’s o
“Sure, no sweat.”
It’s annoying to have to repeat things, but I want to start off on the right foot, so whatever Lance wants to do is fine with me. Plus, I know I did well on those exercises before, so I’m anxious to show off my skill again, so that Lance can see that Whitney obviously wasn’t giving me enough credit.
“Okay, let’s start by having you stand on this bar and extend your left arm…” Lance begins, and I follow his instructions perfectly.
It’s not nearly as fun as when I was doing this same exercise with Whitney. I can’t help but remember her nice, plump ass as she stood in front of me, or the feel of her small, soft hands on my shoulder as she steadied me.
“Very good,” Lance says.
He runs through some more familiar exercises, taking notes and making little “hrmphs” and “hmmms” in between. His vocalizations sound vaguely positive, but I’m dying to know what he’s writing down.
“So how am I doing, Lance?” I finally ask him.
“You know what, Harlow, you are doing spectacularly well,” he says, sounding a little surprised.
Now I don’t know what to think. Is everyone here inclined to doubt my abilities?
I know I had a traumatic accident but I don’t know why they all seem so shocked that I can do simple stretches and pass easy assessments, when Dr. Davis has been working with me on all of these things for months now, and he’s helped me bounce back to where I’m almost as good as new.
Lance runs me through some more easy tests and then both of us jump when we hear an unexpected knock at the door.
“Dr. Davis,” says Lance, sounding as surprised as I feel. “Welcome. Come on in. What can I do for you?”
“I’ve just been observing,” Dr. Davis says.
“From the window, and I can’t help but notice that you are repeating exercises that Harlow has already done with his previous physical therapist.”
“Why yes,” Lance says, visibly blushing. “I’m just trying to get an accurate assessment of…”
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