Ramsey: A Military Bad Boy Secret Baby Pregnancy Romance (The Bradford Brothers Book 3), page 31
He nods at me, so I know I have to continue to encourage the patient, even though I myself feel a bit doubtful.
“Just a little further,” I tell Jim. “Now let go.”
He lifts his foot off the barre and plunges downward, about to fall face- first onto the floor.
Great, I think, doing my best to try to catch him or at least break his fall.
“It’s okay,” Lance says, as he somehow miraculously appears by my side.
He holds onto Jim while I steady his arms.
He doesn’t fall. But it was close.
“You told me I could do it,” Jim says, glaring at me accusingly. “She told me—” he begins to complain to my superior, switching his glare to Lance’s direction now.
“You can do it,” Lance tells Jim, easing the knot that had gathered in my stomach. “If not today, then tomorrow. You just have to keep trying. It’s part of your treatment.”
I’m glad that Lance always has my back.
Jim doesn’t look convinced, but he gathers his things and begins to leave.
“See you at this same time on Monday!” I call out after him, but he just scowls.
Most of our patients hate us for the work that we do, even though it’s for their own good.
Once he’s gone, I head to the computer to clock out, since Jim was my last client for the day. I also turn on my cell phone.
While there’s no official rule that I can’t have my phone on or with me at work, I don’t want to take any chances. I was so happy when I scored this rather prestigious internship, and I would hate to screw up such a good opportunity.
Many of my co-workers have already left for the day, and the weekend. Like Lance, they’re in the Air Force. But I’m only doing an unpaid internship here.
Most of my classmates had to look for paid internships but I receive a non- profit grant that pays for a portion of my college credits, which include this internship. So in that way I’m lucky I’m able to do this internship without additional financial hardship, although money is already tight.
“Thank you for helping me catch him!” I say to Lance.
“No worries. Although you did look a bit worried, Girl!” He chuckles.
“I knew I was doing the right thing, and following the protocol you taught me, and I could tell you were backing me by the look on your face. Yet I also knew he was going to fall. I could just tell he wasn’t quite there yet.”
I look down at my cell phone, expecting a text from my boyfriend Tony, but there isn’t one.
“Sometimes it has to do with the patient’s own level of self- confidence,” Lance says. “It’s our job to push them as much as we think they’re capable of handling, and their job to figure out if they can handle it. Kind of like a metaphor for life in general, right?”
He laughs, but I’m preoccupied.
“What’s wrong?” he asks. “You always laugh at my jokes. Because they’re so damn funny, of course.”
“Ha. I’m sorry, Lance. I have to admit I’d kind of stopped listening, so I didn’t really get the joke.”
I’m staring in annoyance at my cell phone, which is devoid of text messages from Tony.
“What did Mr. Moochie McMoocherson do now?” Lance asks.
That’s his “nickname” for my boyfriend.
“He just… completely ignored me, I guess,” I say. “Before my shift started, I’d texted him asking if he wants to go out tonight.”
“Sure,” he agrees. “I mean, it is Friday night.”
“Right. So I was expecting him to text me back. Maybe he’d decline, like he usually does, but at least he should get back to me, right?”
“But he didn’t. There’s nothing. No texts at all.”
I sit down at the computer chair, feeling defeated.
“Further proving my theory…” Lance begins.
“Oh come on, you need to hear it again. You need to believe it. Just like Jim needs to believe he can stretch that far and still take his foot off the barre. Or he’ll be stuck there, upset at you for supposedly making him fall, forever.”
“You really think Tony just uses me?” I ask Lance, with a pout.
It’s an often- repeated theory of Lance’s, which I don’t want to believe. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
“Whitney. He only talks to you when he needs money. He’s probably sitting at home in his boxer- briefs, too busy playing video games to look at your text message, let alone respond.”
“He wears boxers!” I protest.
But otherwise his prediction sounds entirely too realistic.
“Even worse. Sounds like the perfect stereotype of every lazy heterosexual man mooching off his girlfriend that I’ve ever heard of.”
I have no idea how Lance accurately knows what my boyfriend does— or doesn’t do— all day. I suppose I’ve complained about him one too many times.
“Well, I guess I have nothing else to do now except go home and hear about his progress in Call of Duty,” I say, with a sigh.
“Does he spend any time looking for a job?” he asks.
I shrug. “Probably not.”
“And it’s been how many months now since he lost his?”
“Too many. But Lance, I know it sounds like an excuse— that I’m giving him, not even that he’s giving himself— but I really think he’s depressed. He just mopes around all day and gets so irritated over nothing.”
“That could be, but it doesn’t change the fact that I hate to see you like this. You are such a go- getter and so ambitious, and he’s admittedly a pessimist who intentionally or unintentionally mooches off of you.”
“Well, when you put it like that…”
I slump down further in the chair, not at all excited about going home. I guess I can’t argue with Lance. Reality is in his favor.
“Well Love, I would take you out for a drink to drown your sorrow and cheer your spirits, but I’m doing something much more exciting,” Lance says.
From the tilt of his head and the smile that he’s obviously trying to hide, I know he doesn’t really believe it.
“There’s a conference and seminar for physical therapists,” he says. “The military is presenting an award to a hot shot doctor who has worked with some of the same patients we do and who is going to start sending us even more referrals.”
“What kind of a doctor?”
“A reconstructive surgeon or some other such fancy title,” he says. “But that’s about all I know. Apparently his work is fascinating. I know it’s no hot date with your Studmuffin Moochie, but it really could be interesting. And enlightening for your career. You should come.”
I look at him dubiously. I’m not sure what reconstructive surgery has to do with physical therapy, but I am intrigued by anything that can help my career.
“Why not?” I look down at my phone one more time, but there’s been no new activity. No sudden bursts of apologetic text messages from Tony. And I was stupid to think that such texts would come. “What else do I have to do?”
“Exactly,” says Lance.
I slide my phone into my back pocket as I follow him out the door.
The conference is in a different part of the base than our clinic is located, so Ken and I arrive there a little late. We have no choice but to sit in some folding chairs in a make- shift row that someone obviously set up when they realized there would be more people here than anticipated. It’s a bit too close to the front for my comfort but at least we don’t have to climb over too many peoples’ laps.
“Excuse me, pardon me,” Lance says as we make our way to the empty seats.
I admire his confident way of not caring that people always turn around and inspect him. I guess he’s used to it by now. Even though it’s become officially okay to be a gay member of the military, that never stops people from staring.
“I would like to present my finest example of these techniques of which I’ve been speaking,” he tells the crowd. “Let me first introduce him by showing some photos. This is Harlow Bradford, eight months ago.”
A slide show begins, featuring photos of Air Force servicemen in uniform, in diving and jumping gear, on a mountain, in front of and inside a helicopter, and more. It’s a picturesque scene of comradery and heroism.
“Look at that hunt of military man meat,” Lance whispers, knocking his knee against my own.
“Shhhhh!” I tell him, but I can’t help but stifle a giggle.
“I’d definitely be asking him, now that we’re allowed to ask and tell…” Lance continues, and I look away from him so that I don’t laugh out loud.
The Harlow guy featured in all the photos is definitely a looker— as are many of the men in the pictures, including two guys in the majority of the photos who look as if they could be his brothers.
“Harlow Bradford is a real American hero— a veteran of multiple wars and an elite member of the Combat Search and Rescue Team of the United States Air Force’s Special Operations force. He spent years rescuing injured servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, as a pararescueman. Until…”
At this point, the doctor pauses dramatically. I’m beginning to feel like I’m in watching America’s Got Talent or a televangelism special, and I’m a bit annoyed by the antics.
“…until Harlow’s helicopter was shot down after he had successfully rescued victims of another fallen plane, and he suffered catastrophic injuries. His face and skull were burnt and damaged nearly beyond recognition.”
The next photo is indeed of a nearly unrecognizable face. It’s burnt, scarred and ruined. I can’t help but join the collective audience gasp. Not even Lance has anything to say. I’ve never seen anyone look so bad and end up living, which I’m assuming this man did.
“By using a mix of technology, science, and medicine, including skin grafts, 3D printing, and surgery, I was able to restore Harlow’s face to almost like new.”
Some members of the crowd claps, but the doctor waves a hand signaling that he’s not finished.
“This level of facial reconstructive surgery had never previously been achieved,” he continues. “And that’s why Davis Technologies is on the cutting edge. It’s also why we’re committed to helping members of our military, such as Harlow.”
Everyone claps loudly now, and I join in, a bit skeptically. There’s something gloating and almost showboating about this doctor, and I’m not sure I like him. But he’s definitely done something amazing for this man’s face and future, and for that I feel compelled to applaud him.
“And now, I introduce the one and only Harlow Bradford, who is here in person for today’s presentation.”
The audience gasps and I almost feel sorry for the man who is about to step on stage as this doctor’s pet project. But I suppose it’s good that he’s alive, and that his face has been restored to its previous handsomeness. I feel like I’m watching a tragic- turned- hopeful freak show of sorts, but I know I couldn’t turn away now even if I tried.
Like everyone else, I’m fascinated and curious to see what he really looks like in person. And I can’t help but wonder about the man behind Dr. Davis’ renowned mission.
As I straighten the collar of my uniform, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and notice that my hand is shaking.
Stop being a pussy, Harlow, I tell my reflection.
I’ve been to war, fought in battles, and barely survived full enemy attack. Yet someone once said that public speaking is the biggest fear of all, and I’m beginning to believe they were right. This is not the first time I’ve appeared at a conference for Dr. Davis, but I’m beginning to think it will never get easier.
“They’re ready for you,” one of the conference organizers tells me, and I pull my shoulders back and walk onto the stage, hoping that I look much more confident than I feel. Here goes nothing.
Dr. Davis introduces me to the crowd of people who have gathered to hear him talk and see him win an award— the reason that both he and I are here tonight. He had been discussing his state- of- the- art facial reconstruction methods, using my photos as illustrations, but now it’s time for him to point to me as his real live Exhibit A. Even though I’m grateful that Dr. Davis has done so much for me, sometimes I feel like his freak show creation, in addition to his guinea pig.
I look at the large projection screen above me, where my face— the “after” version— is still prominently displayed. Purposefully not giving myself enough time to change my mind, I step forward, joining Dr. David at the podium, and the crowd politely claps.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Harlow Bradford,” Dr. Davis says.
“Go Harlow!” chants everyone in the front row, and I turn and nod at my boys. The pararescue unit of the Air Force Special Ops. My figurative brothers, and two of them— Jensen and Ramsey— my literal brothers, have shown up to support me, as they do at many of these presentations and conferences. No one could believe how well I pulled through, not even my own brothers.
Jensen’s not in the service anymore. Instead he works for a private contractor, training recruits to do what we do. But he’ll always remain part of the unit in spirit.
And Ramsey, our oldest brother, is the one who got all of us started down this exciting, yet sometimes insane, journey, by joining the Air Force out of high school and inspiring Jensen and me to do the same.
My unit is about to deploy again, and I’m pissed that I don’t get to go with them. I’m still officially on medical leave, although my recovery was much faster than anyone in the Air Force predicted.
Dr. Davis certified me as physically and mentally fit to return to service, but he says that there’s some kind of hold- up with my official clearance. So I have nothing to do now but twiddle my thumbs and work for Dr. Davis to let me know when I can officially return to active duty status with my unit.
Turning my eyes away from the front row, I look at the ladies in the audience: some of them are service members in uniform or fatigues while others are civilians in regular clothes, but all of them seem to be staring up at me in awe. I know I could take any one of them home tonight, if I want.
I remember last night’s conquest, a busty redhead who giggled too much. Everything was “nice to meet you, tee hee,” “I like your bachelor pad, ha ha ha,” and even “your big cock feels so good inside me, hee hee.”
It got to the point where I couldn’t stand how silly she sounded, but it didn’t matter. I never see a woman again after we fuck. And I make it my goal for us to fuck as soon as possible. Which, in all honestly, isn’t very difficult. Chicks line up to fuck me.
As Dr. Davis was just explaining to everyone here, I’m an American hero, after all. And while I’ve never had any complaints in the looks department, thanks to the miracles of Dr. Davis’ work, now I’m even more attractive than I started out, which is one of the few good things that came from my disastrous injury— the other one being that I didn’t die. I only came close.
I was never that interested in relationships anyway— I’ve only seen bad things come out of them. I just like to have a short and sweet rendezvous now and then. But I probably won’t be taking any of these chicks home tonight. It ruins it for me when they see me as a medical project, a pity- party- turned- miracle- boy.
There is one woman in the audience who catches my eye. She’s sitting off to the side near the front, in a makeshift aisle. She’s dressed in civilian clothes and she looks like just my type. I can tell she’s voluptuous even from her seated position, and she has olive skin, dark hair and dark eyes.
“Let me show you an example of how Harlow has come,” Dr. Davis says, snapping me out of my thoughts of the lovely mystery woman and back into reality.
That’s right, I remind myself. I have more important things to do than think about banging t
It’s time to shine, to impress Dr. Davis and the Air Force, and to complete my mission of re- joining my unit.
Distractions from any mission can be deadly, and I know that all too well by now to let myself daydream over some chick, no matter how hot she is. I have more important things to do, which require all of my focus and energy.
Here we are at the center of the dog and pony show. This is the part where I perform like a puppet on Dr. Davis’ string. He plays a video now on the projector screen, of the “before” Harlow, trying unsuccessfully to grip and use a pencil.
“Not only was Harlow disfigured in the helicopter accident, but he was set back developmentally as well,” Dr. Davis explains, as my video plays on the big screen that everyone is watching.
“He suffered brain trauma which resulted in physical deficits, which is part of the very reason I’m here today, talking to so many of you who are physical and occupational therapists. Because, as you can see, at first Harlow failed at such basic tasks as using a pencil. He couldn’t even write his name. But now, Harlow has progressed considerably, in every measurable area. Just look.”
Dr. Davis motions me to his podium and hands me a blank sheet of paper. I already know the drill. He also hands me a pencil and I write my name on the sheet of paper.
The crowd goes wild, as they are supposed to. The ladies are undoubtedly thinking, this hunk knows how to write his name again. He’s ready to get back to saving our country!
I never thought I’d get so much attention for the simple task of being able to write my name. But compared to how far I’ve come— the Harlow of eight months ago who could barely even pick up a pencil— it really is quite the achievement. So I try to bask in the applause, although I still have mixed feelings about it.