Harlow: A Military Bad Boy Romance: The Bradford Brothers, page 3
It’s for the best, I tell myself, as I head home to face Tony.
The last thing I need is someone complicating my already- fizzling relationship right now. Not to mention complicating my life.
But when I get home, Tony’s asleep. I guess he’s taking a nap after what appears to have been a marathon X- Box session. He’s only wearing boxers, which I can’t wait to tell Lance about the next time I see him.
I pick up the dirty plate of mostly- eaten pasta leftovers from the TV tray in the living room and wash it in the sink with some other dirty dishes.
“Ugh,” says Tony, waking up from his nap. “Why do you have to be so loud?”
I spin around, disgusted.
“I went to school and worked all day and now I’m cleaning up your mess, so excuse me if I make a little noise while I do it,” I shoot back.
“You’re the one who didn’t come home until late in the evening, after being with your boss.”
Tony’s awake now, and sitting on the couch with his head on his fists like a spoiled child.
“I called and texted you many times trying to see what our plans were,” I tell him. “And then I was invited to a conference that could help my career, and so I went. But even if none of that was the case, the fact is that I’ve been working all day while you’ve been doing nothing as usual.”
“I’m sorry I missed your call,” Tony says, slumping into a resigned position. “I just lost track of time. How was the conference?”
“It was good,” I tell him, amazed that he actually wants to hear about my day. “But there was this hotshot doctor yapping on about how much work he’s done for service members, and I just think he’s full of it. Something just seems off.”
“How’s that?” Tony asks.
I turn to the dry rack to have something to occupy my mind while I talk. Now that I’m letting it out, I realize how mad at this doctor I am, and how it doesn’t make a lot of sense. He’s a stranger to me, but…
“I just feel like he’s using this Harlow guy who he paraded on stage,” I continue, as I dry the dishes and purposefully leave out how smoking hot Harlow is. “Sure, he’s helped him a lot, but I think he picked him because he’s just the perfect example to trot out, but where are all the other people he’s helped? Maybe this Harlow guy wasn’t really that hurt, or maybe he’s not even physically or mentally capable of doing a lot of things that Dr. Davis claims he can do already. Maybe the doctor is just exaggerating about how far he’s coming in such a short amount of time. You know?”
I turn around to hear Tony’s opinion but he’s playing a video game on mute. He doesn’t even realize I’ve stopped talking.
“Never mind,” I say, putting the last plate on the drying rack. “I’m going to bed.”
“Night!” he says cheerfully, as he continues to play his game.
No doubt he will be up most of the night with that endeavor, and will wake up late tomorrow to do it all over again.
“That was some presentation, Harlow,” Jensen says, and holds his Jack and Coke up for a toast.
“Thanks,” I answer, trying to show some enthusiasm.
We’re at Louie’s, Jensen’s favorite bar, where he had of course instructed everyone to go once the presentation ended. I look around at the complete dive, which isn’t really my style, but I’m just glad that the ordeal is over and I’m happy to be relaxing with my brothers and buddies.
Jensen’s joined a motorcycle club and this joint is their favorite hang- out. While I can’t exactly understand the appeal, I’m glad my brother’s happy.
For a while there Jensen was in the slumps but then he met his girlfriend, Riley. Suddenly he turned into Mr. Commitment, someone he’d never thought he’d be— and who I certainly don’t ever want to be come— but it seems to be working out for him.
“We’re sure glad you pulled through,” says Dwayne, a friend in my unit, shouting to be heard over the blasting of Waylon Jennings music from the speakers. “We were really worried about you there for a while.”
“But you came so far,” says Ramsey. “And I knew you would.”
“Somehow you ended up even more attractive in those ‘after’ pictures than you were before the whole incident!” Dwayne says.
“Very funny,” I snort.
I know they’re just giving me a hard time, and that they really are happy I’ve recovered so well. It was a scary time for everyone and I’m glad to have had them as a steady presence during all the turmoil.
“You see this guy here?” Jensen announces, to a group of biker mamas who have come up to the bar to order drinks. “He’s not only a certified war hero, but he’s practically a model! He gets paid to have his face displayed in front of tons of people!”
The women look me up and down, half dubious, half impressed.
“Jensen,” I hiss through my teeth, kicking him in the shin under the bar. “They’re not exactly my type.”
Some of them are young and attractive but the biker scene is definitely more Jensen’s than mine.
“They’re not the only ones who are hearing this,” Jensen whispers back to me.
Sure enough, a flock of women appear seemingly out of nowhere, looking like they’re here to pre- game before heading to a club. They’re all dolled up and they all seem to be drooling.
“This calls for a drink!” A pretty blonde in a mini- skirt says.
“I’m buying, on behalf of Harlow here,” Jensen says. “I’m taken. But American War Hero Model isn’t.”
The blonde eyes me up and down, and smiles. She obviously likes what she sees. And normally I’d feel the same.
Jensen winks at me, and I try to act grateful. But my mind isn’t on the blonde’s fairly curvy ass, even if my eyes are. My brain is split between thinking about Lovely Mystery Lady who asked all those annoying questions at the conference, and wondering when I can get back to being an active member of my unit.
I don’t know who Mystery Lady thinks she is— or even who she really is. I saw her staring at me after the presentation and I also saw her perfect hourglass curves and her ass that is as voluptuous as her tits. And now I can’t get her or her brazenness out of my head.
I don’t want to let the sexy stranger’s blunt questions influence me too much, but I can’t help a nagging thought that maybe Dr. Davis isn’t as selfless as he seems. What is in it for him? And when can I get back to work?
I can never get a straight answer from Dr. Davis about when exactly he certified me for service, or if he even did, and when exactly the next step is supposed to happen. I make a mental note to be sure to ask him on Monday before I start working for him in the office. I don’t want to let the opportunity arise for any distractions to come up first thing and then end up taking the entire day, as such things are prone to do.
I no longer feel like being here. The celebratory mood just isn’t matching my own.
“It’s been fun, guys,” I say, as I nod at the bartender. “What’s my damage?”
“I’ve got it,” says Jensen. “But why is our guest of honor leaving so soon?”
He nods, not so subtly, to the busty blonde.
“I have an early morning trail run scheduled, and it’s been a long day,” I tell him.
Dr. Davis keeps saying he’s going to get me into physical therapy, but in the mean time I’ve been working out on my own. My trail “run” can sometimes still feel more like a trail “walk” these days but at least I’m doing something.
“Ooooh, Mr. Model’s gotta get his beauty rest,” Ramsey teases me, in a half- drunken slur.
Really I have to give my brain a rest. I’m tired of worrying about when Dr. Davis is going to follow up with whoever is supposed to certify me. I just want to watch some comedy until I fall asleep.
But as if on cue, Dr. Davis enters the bar. He actually walks into Louie’s— a bar that isn’t a doctor’s type at all. I have no idea why he would come
“Hey Harlow, thought I’d come join the party for a bit. I wanted to congratulate you on a job well done today. I appreciate all your help. Can I buy you a drink?”
“I was just leaving,” I say, as Jensen and Ramsey both throw me confused glances.
“So soon? And in your state? You’d better let me call you an Uber.”
“I’m fine,” I tell him. “How did you know where to find me?”
“You kidding?” asks Dr. Davis. “Everyone in your entourage was shouting about taking you for drinks at Louie’s. I figure it was an open invitation, right?”
He nods to the bartender.
“The next round for everyone is on me,” he says.
Looking Blondie up and down, he says, “Including hers. And I’ll have whatever Harlow here is drinking.”
I settle down in the bar stool and decide to make the most of Dr. Davis’ unexpected— and frankly, quite odd— presence. As another Jack and Coke is placed in front of me, I decide I’d better take advantage of the opportunity to ask him just what’s been on my mind.
I take a quick swig for liquid courage but before I can eek out a word, Dr. Davis says, “So boys, what’d you think of our boy Harlow here? He was very impressive today, was he not?”
“We were just congratulating him,” Ramsey agrees, in a polite yet cautious tone.
I know that my brothers and buddies are grateful for everything that Dr. Davis has done for me, just as I am. But they can likely tell by my demeanor, as well as just the general strangeness of the doctor following us to a bar, that this is not an invited or even a very welcome visit.
“He’s come so far and I can’t wait for him to return to the unit,” says my buddy Mason, always the overly- eager type who never knows when to keep his mouth shut. “That is—” he continues, flashing me an apologetic half- smile, “Of course he’s still part of the unit and always will be. But I mean we’re all looking forward to his actual return, when he can serve by our side again, be deployed with us, and that type of thing.”
“Here’s to Harlow’s progress,” says Dr. Davis, raising his glass.
As everyone cheers, I decide not to let this moment pass. Mason inadvertently gave me the perfect opening. And as I start to feel a bit tipsy, I decide that putting Dr. Davis on the spot might work to my advantage. It’ll be all that much harder for him to pussyfoot around or blow me off.
“On that note,” I say, plastering a big smile across my face. “When do you think I’ll be able to go back? Since I’ve made so much progress and all? Has your certification of me been reviewed yet?”
“Harlow, we’ll talk about this on Monday,” Dr. Davis says, in an almost angry tone. He clearly doesn’t like that I’ve challenged him. “Why don’t you report to my office at o- eight- hundred so that I can fill you in on the specifics of that? We don’t want your confidential medical information to be bantered around in a bar.”
I’m annoyed that he considers my brothers and closest friends— for whom I would die, and almost did, and who would do the same for me— to be considered “bantering.” But I’m glad he set a date and time to answer my questions and provide me with a status update of sorts. I’m hopeful that now we can actually get somewhere on my goal of returning to my unit.
“That sounds good, thanks,” I tell him.
But something still seems off. I don’t know what it is about that chick at the conference that’s knocking me off my game.
I can’t hit on Blondie like I normally would, and I can’t feel confident about my progress. Try as I might, I also can’t seem to push vague, nagging negative thoughts about Dr. Davis out of my head.
I stand up. “I really do have to get going now. I wish I had known you wanted to join us and I would have made sure to invite you earlier.”
“Harlow, that’s fine, I can’t stay long myself. But I really do think you should call an Uber.”
I look at him in annoyance. What is he, my dad now?
Something nags at the back of my mind. Protecting his golden ticket. Can’t let me die in a DUI crash after all he’s done to restore me.
“Unless you want me to give you a ride home?” Dr. Davis asks.
“I’ll just go ahead and be on the safe side and Uber it,” I tell him, just to get him off my back.
I definitely don’t want to spend any more time with him tonight. And after that last drink he insisted on buying me, he’s probably right that I shouldn’t chance driving. Stop thinking so negatively. He’s just looking out for you.
“Bye guys,” I say, again, as Ramsey tries to give me a drunken high five that doesn’t quite make its mark. “You should probably Uber it too.”
“Yeah, there’s no room on my bike for passengers, unless they’re Riley,” Jensen tells him, laughing.
“I will. Later,” Ramsey says. “The night is young.”
I’m glad to see that he’s relaxed and having a good time. And everyone else seems to be as well. I guess I’m the only one brooding over a girl I’ll never see again, and the doctor who saved my face but seems to be messing with my head.
As I wait for my driver, I remind myself that I owe a lot to Dr. Davis. I shouldn’t let Whatever- Her- Name- Is influence my thoughts so negatively.
It’s probably just regret that’s eating at me. I should have gotten her number, or at least her name.
At seven o’clock in the evening, my mom calls, for our weekly FaceTime chat.
“Hi Sweetie,” she says, and my dad waves at me from the background, where he’s watching his beloved Yankees on TV.
I moved to Albuquerque from the East Coast for college, but I try to visit and stay in touch with my parents as much as I can.
“How’s the internship going?”
“Pretty good,” I tell her.
Especially when it presents me with eye candy like Harlow, I think about adding, but I don’t.
“My clinic has the opportunity to work with a doctor who performs facial reconstructive surgery on military members who are wounded in action,” I continue. “It’s exciting, but there’s something about this doctor I can’t put my finger on. He seems a bit too… opportunistic.”
My mom’s face wrinkles with concern. It’s nice to hear my opinion validated, even if by a “hmmm.”
“Well, just follow your gut and trust your intuition,” she says. “You know God gave it to you for a reason.”
“That’s true, Mom.”
“So what else is new?”
“Ummm,” I rack my brain, trying not to mention Tony. Although they’re too polite to say much, they’ve never been big fans. “I’ve been trying to go to the gym more, and lose a little weight. I feel pretty out of shape.”
“Oh nonsense, Dear. You’re just perfect the way you are.”
I do my best not to sigh. I know I should be grateful to have such a supportive mother, but she’s so full of empty platitudes.
When I first moved out here, it was because my eventual goal was medical school, and it’s much more affordable out here than it is in New York. My pre- med classes turned out to be harder than I expected, and every time I tried to express my frustrations to my parents, I felt that they just wrote off my concerns.
“Anything worth doing is difficult,” they would say. Or “you have to stay motivated to succeed.”
I feel like everything’s always come so easy for them. My dad has a brilliant mind when it comes to science, and he got paid a lot as an engineer, before he retired. My mom has always been a stay at home mom. And my older brother got a full- ride scholarship to Columbia, for computer engineering.
I’ve just always felt like I can’t compete. Everything I do seems mediocre in comparison, and I guess I start to wonder why I even try.
When I told them I was switching to Physical Therapy, I coul
Sometimes I wish they’d challenge me a little more, since I obviously can’t seem to challenge myself.
“How are you and Tony doing, Honey?” My mom asks me now.
“Oh, we’re fine.”
I try to remain nonchalant. I can’t really talk to my mom about deep things like that.
“Well that’s good, Dear. Tell him I say hello.”
“I will, Mom.”
“All right. Well, it’s almost bed time here. Have a good night.”
“You too, Mom. Love you. Love you Dad.”
“Bye!” They both wave at me and blow me kisses.
This is how pretty much all of our conversations go. There isn’t much substance, but at least we stay in touch.
As I hang up, I start to wonder whether anything really exciting will ever happen in my life. Something so out of the ordinary and different, that my parents will stand up and pay attention.
I try to imagine them bragging to their friends about me the way they brag about my brother.
“Our daughter became a world class ballerina.”
“Our daughter helped cure cancer.”
“Our daughter broke up with her deadbeat boyfriend.”
That one hurt, even just in my thoughts.
“Our daughter is dating a member of the Special Forces.”
Now I have to tell myself to shut up, before I let my fantasies run wild. And if I’m going to indulge any fantasies, it’s going to involve a hot, steamy sex session with Dr. Davis’ pet project Harlow, rather than what my parents might tell their friends at their country club.
And in reality, I guess I’ll never do much to impress my parents, or to woo a guy like Harlow.
But at least a girl can dream.