Ramsey: A Military Bad Boy Secret Baby Pregnancy Romance (The Bradford Brothers Book 3), page 32
“And now I will open up the floor for some questions,” Dr. Davis says.
“What will you need those of us at Kirtland Air Force base’s physical and occupational therapies to do for you?” asks a man towards the back.
“Great question,” Dr. Davis answers, “and a subject I was going to address next, so I’m glad you asked. Based on additional funding I’ve received— in large part due to the progress of Harlow and many others like him— I will be working with quite a few new wounded warriors. And many of them are stationed here of course. So once they are out of their initial trauma recovery at Walter Reed, they will see me for facial reconstruction and then, depending on their status and treatment plan, some will see you for physical and occupational therapy. Harlow himself, in fact, will be receiving more physical therapy here, to help him progress even further.”
That’s the first time I’ve heard of this, I think, trying not to let disappointment show on my face for everyone in the audience to see. I wonder how long my re- entry will be delayed based on this physical therapy I just found out I need.
A few other people ask questions, and then I notice that Lovely Mystery Woman has her hand raised. We lock stares for a brief second before Dr. Davis calls on her. I have a feeling she has been hit with the same instant attraction that I’ve been feeling for her. Perhaps asking a question is her way of getting my attention.
“How long until this type of treatment is available to every man and woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving our country?” she asks Dr. Davis.
Dr. Davis looks rather confused— or is it annoyed?— by the question.
“Of course I’m only one doctor, but I’m doing my best to work with everyone who needs my services,” he says.
“Is there a specific reason that you chose Mr. Bradford to receive your services, out of everyone who needs them?” she continues, barely waiting for him to finish.
What an odd question, I think, and one that I cannot help being annoyed at myself.
“Mr. Bradford was in great need of my services,” Dr. Davis answers. “And he had impeccable timing. I had just finished perfecting and patenting my technology.”
“I see,” the woman says, but it doesn’t look like she’s convinced. “And what is the success rate? How many other members of our armed forces have seen the level of success that Mr. Bradford has experienced?”
Dr. Davis looks visibly exasperated now, and I can’t blame him. Just who does this woman think she is?
And yet, I can’t help wondering about her question. Although I help Dr. Davis in his office— and I’m often asked to talk to patients preparing for surgery and treatment such as I myself have undergone— I rarely have continuing contact with them. And I’m the only one that Dr. Davis drags out for the dog and pony show.
“That’s a very subjective question that’s difficult to answer,” Dr. Davis says. “My methods are still in their infancy and there are varying degrees of ‘successful treatment’ still in progress.”
“And can we see more examples of Mr. Bradford’s progress?” she asks. “For instance, can he write a paragraph in addition to just his name?”
I have to restrain myself from letting my mouth fall open. I have no idea why this woman is challenging Dr. Davis and now me.
The members of the audience look confused, as if some are wanting to see more demonstrations themselves just for the entertainment value, whereas others are wondering if the woman in the crowd is trying to challenge Dr. Davis’ statements.
I see Dr. Davis give a subtle nod to the conference organizers and then the same man who told me I was needed on stage rushes to the podium.
“Those are enough questions from one audience member,” he says. “And in fact we are going over on our time limit as it is. We are going to present Dr. Davis with his award now.”
I breathe a silent sigh of relief, glad that my time in the spotlight is up. I walk down the stairs to sit next to my unit members in the front row, but I can’t help throwing an angry glance in the direction of the mystery woman. She’s looking back at me, but not with the same challenging look she used when she was addressing Dr. Davis. Now her look signals curiosity, or interest.
Although I’m upset by her questions, I can’t help but admire her tenacity, in addition to her tits. I’ve never heard anyone ask Dr. Davis such thought- provoking questions before. And I’ve never seen a rack that looked so good.
As I take my place, Jensen says “Good job, bro!” and Ramsey says, “Who’s was that fine- ass hottie asking all those weird questions?”
“Good question,” I answer, but Dr. Davis shoots me a glare from the stage.
He’s being presented with his award, and it’s my job to cheer him on. I shut up and concentrate on the presentation, but not without lingering thoughts of the chick with the tenacity and tits.
Who the hell is this woman and why am I letting her mess with my head?
After the presentation is done, some people leave while others mill about. I check my phone, telling myself not to be disappointed if I still haven’t heard from Tony. To my surprise, though, I’m greeted with a bunch of pestering texts, asking why I’m not home yet and demanding to know my whereabouts.
I guess I should be careful what I wish for.
“Girl, why were you givin’ that doctor the bidness like some NFL player who needs a flag thrown at him?” Lance says, laughing as he over- exaggerates his accent.
“I don’t know, he just bugged.”
“Well, way to make an impression. You definitely stood out, although I’m not sure it’s in the most positive way…”
I shrug, distracted.
A circle of people have formed around Harlow, everyone wanting to talk to him. I look in that direction, because I’d like to ask him how he feels about being a monkey in what seems to be Dr. Davis’ Circus. Or maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself, when the real reason I’m looking at him is that he’s hot as hell.
Suddenly I notice that he’s looking in my direction too. Our eyes lock, and my spine tingles. He wants to talk to me, too. I just know it.
But just then my phone rings. Tony’s name flashes on the screen, reminding me that I’m in a committed relationship, no matter how badly it seems to be going.
I whisper into the phone, not wanting to be rude by disrupting any conversations that those gathering after the conference may be having.
“Where are you? I’m hungry.”
“I stayed late for a thing at work.”
“You’re with that Lance guy, aren’t you?” Tony asks, accusatory in tone. “Your boss. Something’s up between you.”
I would laugh if I weren’t so annoyed.
I’ve told Tony multiple times that Lance is not only my boss— which would forbid any kind of relationship between us— but also that he’s gay. But Tony doesn’t listen to anything and insists he’s always right.
“Tony, I’ll be home soon. There’s leftover pasta in the fridge though.”
“Oh great, I’m about to eat some,” he says, and hangs up, just like that.
I look at my phone in disgust.
“Lemme guess. McMoochie’s accusing you of hooking up with me again?” Lance asks, and then laughs.
“It’s not funny. It’s getting so old.”
“He’s so insecure because he knows you’re too good for his lazy ass.”
I shrug and look away. In the past I would have defended Tony but I know deep down that Lance is right. I’m nearing my breaking point and it has nothing to do with that hot patient of Dr. Davis’ over there.
I look back in his direction and he catches my eye again. I can’t tell if his look is one of curiosity, disgust or interest. Maybe a mix of all of the above.
I take a deep breath and get ready to suggest to Lance that we say hello to Mr. All- American Hero before we leave. But just then a group of Harlow’s military tea
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.
“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.”