Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 40
“Well, anyway, I’m sure they’d listen to my request and I don’t see the harm in asking for a new PT.”
“I happen to think you’re up for the challenge of this pain-in-the-butt intern,” Ramsey says. “Why not prove her wrong? If she thinks you’re ready for service, then anyone would. And I know you can convince her. Because I know you are ready for service.”
Suddenly I feel a familiar hand on my shoulder and hear my brother Jensen’s voice from behind me.
“Oh brothers, why do you diss my dive bar in favor of this stuck-up bar?”
“Hey,” I say, turning to him. “You get off of work early?”
“I did,” he says, “and thought I’d head over here to see what you two pansies were up to before heading home to the old lady.”
“Already that serious, huh?” Ramsey asks, with a laugh.
“We never expected this from you of all people,” I chime in.
Jensen just smiles in a way that’s boastful but bashful at the same time. My brother is really in love . I never thought it possible.
“I guess there’s still hope for all of us,” Ramsey ruminates.
I pound my fist defiantly on the bar after I say it, which the bartender believes is a sign signaling him to come over and get me another drink. I may as well go for it. I don’t want to be deluded with false hope of some happily ever after story.
Jensen’s face is glowing like a pregnant woman’s. I’m happy for him since he’s happy with Riley.
But his sudden turnaround in the romance department has the tendency to dredge up bad memories of our parents, and all the reasons we all three have always said we didn’t want to be in a committed relationship. Even though we never had an official pact not to settle down with any chicks, it had been long discussed and decided on among us, and Jensen had to go and betray Ramsey and me.
“We all know you just like to hit it and quit it,” Ramsey says to me.
“And on that note…” Jensen muses, mysteriously.
I follow the direction of his stare until I see Blondie, or at least a woman who looks a lot like her.
“Is that the same girl from Louie’s the other night?”
Jensen’s laugh is mischievous now.
“What in the…?”
What is he up to?
“She may be a friend of Riley’s who I had told to come to Louie’s, to celebrate your fine performance on the stage. You were too tired and mopey then, so I thought you’d like to make up for lost time.”
I glare at him as Blondie sidles up to me and says, “Hey there, Gorgeous.”
I don’t know why Jensen thinks he needs to set me up. I could have had any girl at the conference that night. I probably could have even had uppity Whitney.
My guess is that he’s trying to tame me, so that I can have a ball and chain like he has Riley now. Hell, it’s even one of her friends. That figures .
But I look at Blondie again and can’t say I blame my brother for trying. He certainly chose well for me. Blondie has banging tits and pretty blue eyes under eyelashes so long they have to be fake.
“What are you drinking?” I ask.
“I’ll have some Sex on the Beach.”
She winks at me.
“Too bad we’re in the desert,” Ramsey laughs.
“What are you boys up to tonight?” she asks, inching even closer to my bar stool.
“Just hanging out and having fun,” Jensen says. “At least these single boys here are,” he quickly adds.
“Actually, I was just complaining to Ramsey about the state of my life,” I tell her.
Both Jensen and Ramsey shoot me what-the-fuck glares. Jensen’s is accusatory in nature while Ramsey’s is more curious.
“You’re in the wrong place for that,” she says. “You have your two brothers-slash-BFFs-here, and your favorite drink…”
“And the company of a beautiful woman,” Ramsey chimes in.
I would love to fuck Blondie but the fact that she’s Riley’s friend complicates matters. I don’t even know what Jensen was thinking.
He knows I don’t like to have to see my conquests around again. And I would hate to put any strain on his relationship with Riley by using and losing one of her friends, as I’m prone to do with any chick I bang.
But maybe these are all just excuses. At any other point in the past, I’d hook up with Blondie without giving it a second thought.
Maybe I’m still too distracted. I’m mad at myself for letting Whitney throw me off my game. One minute I don’t even want her to be my physical therapist and the next minute I’m looking at Blondie and comparing her to Whitney. And there’s no comparison. Not at all.
“It’s been fun but I’m heading home,” I say, throwing some bills on the bar before standing up to go.
Blondie looks at me with an offended pout, while both Ramsey and Jensen stare at me in disbelief.
“You’ve become quite the party pooper,” Jensen says. Then he whispers under his breath, “I can’t believe you’re turning down tail. What the hell has gotten into you?”
My physical therapist , I automatically think. Or at least, I can’t stop thinking about how much I want to get into her .
Of course I don’t say it. It sounds fucking ridiculous, even to me.
“Jensen!” Ramsey scolds him. “Harlow’s just been having a tough time. It’s really unfair what the military is doing to him, after all his years of loyalty and service…”
“Really?” asks Jensen. “They’re screwing with you that bad? You want me to ask Riley to help? I’m sure she can take them on in court and win, just like she did for me.”
I consider it. It’s not half a bad idea. I know Riley is a good lawyer who helped Jensen when he ran into trouble with the military and he could probably help me convince the Powers That Be to let me back in.
But I’m hoping I won’t need to go that far.
“Thanks, Jensen. I think I just need to see how things play out. I’ll keep it in mind though.”
“Are you sure it’s only that that’s bugging you?” Ramsey asks. He knows me all too well. “Because I really think it’ll be okay. They just want to dot their I’s and cross their T’s, for liability’s sake and all of that.”
“I know,” I say. “Thanks.”
But there’s definitely something— or someone— else who is bugging me.
Against what may be my better judgment— I’m clearly just thinking with my dick, here— I decide to go ahead and start my sessions with Whitney tomorrow morning, if only to prove to myself that she doesn’t bug me all that much. I can handle this.
The only way to get her out of my head is to work with her and be constantly reminded of what an uppity, meddling creature she can be.
Sure, that’s the reason I’m going to see her tomorrow. Because being around her more will snap some sense into me and make me realize I don’t really want to be with her.
Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
After work, I’m making dinner while Tony is out. He shows up when it’s nearly done. He reeks of alcohol.
“How was your day?” I ask him.
“Any luck finding a job?”
“Geez, Whitney. Is that all you care about? Whether or not I find a job?”
I blink, taken aback by his aggressiveness. But then I feel defensive.
“Actually, it’s a big concern right now. You keep saying you’re going to get a job, but nothing happens, and it’s difficult for both of us to live just off of my student loan money. And some of my parents’ money.”
I gulp, thinking, no wonder they don’t like him.
“I can’t help it that you hang out with your boss Lance all day for free, when really they should be paying you.”
“It’s called an internship , Tony. And it’s for our fut
If I don’t blow it by causing problems with Harlow , I think.
I was planning a nice, casual dinner at home, where I could tell Tony about my dilemma at work, which is as follows: on the one hand, I think I could validly assess Harlow and help him improve. On the other, someone higher up than me will likely want me to say that he’s further along than he really is.
And I’d have ethical problems with that. Not to mention Harlow’s haughty attitude. He probably thinks he doesn’t even need my help.
I’ve been thinking a lot about asking for someone else to replace me as Harlow’s physical therapist. It seems like the wisest and most ethical course of action. And yet, I worry that it will look bad for me at work.
As Lance has pointed out, this is my opportunity to prove myself, and I’m not sure I should quit before I even try. Not to mention, I wouldn’t mind the chance to get up close and personal with Harlow…
“What’s for dinner?” Tony asks, as if reading my thoughts and wanting to draw them back to himself.
“Just tomato soup and grilled cheese,” I say. “I had a long day at work and school, so I decided to keep it simple.”
Tony opens the fridge and pops open a Heineken.
“Fine by me.”
Another one? I want to say.
Instead, I ask, “What’d you do today?”
“Just hung out with Nate and some other guys,” he says. “Shot some pool.”
So basically he was in a bar all day while I worked, and now he’s drinking more beer while I cook .
“Do you want to make a salad?” I ask him. “The veggies are in the fridge.”
“No, I’m going to relax and play a game of Madden ‘til dinner’s ready,” he says, heading over to the living room, beer in hand.
I can’t take it anymore. I just explode.
“Tony, I don’t think I can do this.”
He plops down on the couch, not even seeming very upset.
“Us. I just feel so disconnected from you, and you don’t even seem to make an effort anymore. It’s not just a matter of finances, although that’s an important issue. It’s just that emotionally, I feel lonely, as if I’m not even in a relationship at all…”
“Geez, Whitney. We’ve both had long days. Can’t this just wait until later? I don’t have the energy for a long-winded relationship assessment conversation right now.”
I know in my heart that I’ve reached an impasse, but Tony’s right that at least I had a long day. I guess I don’t have in it me to take action about our relationship and my internship right now.
I spoon myself out a small bowl of soup and eat it while Tony obliviously plays his video game. I have lost my appetite.
“Dinner’s ready, serve yourself,” I tell him, on my way to the bathroom. “I’m going to take a bubble bath.”
I sink down deep into the water and try to clear my head. I can’t run away from two challenges at once.
As I hear the sounds of Tony’s video game continue in the living room, I decide to break up with him, and to work with Harlow. It’s time I stopped taking the easy way out for once.
“Thank you all for coming today,” Dr. Davis says, as he passes out sheets of printed paper to those of us seated around the conference table.
Harlow’s physical therapy training officially begins today, with this meeting of his training team, for the purpose of going over his treatment plan. I find it rather odd that Dr. Davis is not only present for this meeting, which is usually only held among the physical therapists, but also that he’s in charge of said meeting.
Once again, the question burns a hole in my mind: What does a facial reconstructive surgeon know about physical therapy? But then again, Dr. Davis is clearly the type who likes to think he’s in charge of everything. And I suppose our department lets him get away with a lot, since he will tout our services during his award-winning presentations and since he promises to send a lot of new patients our way.
“The list I’m handing out includes an overview of the type of services I think that Harlow needs, and the specific tasks he must be able to complete before he can be certified as fit for active duty. This is, of course, our overriding goal.”
I sneak a glance at Harlow and can’t help but notice the hopeful yet proud look on his face. He turns to me and the look changes to one of interest yet reservation, as if to say, “back off unless you’re in line with this goal.”
Lance taps his leg against mine under the table and I realize the exchange of looks between Harlow and I might be more noticeable than I realized. Lance writes a note on the back of his piece of paper:
Meow! Are you and Military Hunk going to have a cat fight for the whole room to see?
I shake my head at him and turn back to Dr. Davis, who is still talking.
“I expect Harlow’s team to report to me frequently so that we can take an integrative approach and more quickly work together to assess and refine any areas that still need improvement.”
I glance down at the list of tasks that Dr. Davis expects Harlow to do and some of them seem difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to perform, let alone someone recovering from a traumatic injury.
Do 100 squats with kettlebells.
Run 2 miles in under 10 minutes.
“Dr. Davis?” I ask, clearing my throat, nervously.
“Yes?” he asks, his eyes narrowing in on me. “Oh yes, of course. I remember you from the awards ceremony. The one who likes to challenge everything and ask a lot of questions. Ms. Reid, am I correct?”
I’m momentarily taken aback, surprised that if he remembers me and views me as a challenge that he would dare allow me to work with his prized patient. And the fact that he knows my name is off-putting, although I suppose not all that strange.
Of course he knows the people who will be working with Harlow. I’m just rather shocked that he would allow me to be one of them.
“Yes. I’m the intern who will be…”
“…primarily working with Harlow.” Dr. Davis fills in the rest of my sentence for me, as if to point out that he’s not an idiot. “I know. Go ahead and ask one of your many questions.”
Nearly everyone in the room snickers, except for Lance, who bumps my leg again as if to tell me to cool it. But he does it in a gentle way, as if to also reassure me he’s on my side. That’s good, because I think he’s the only one who is.
“I was just wondering what criteria you used in creating this list of tasks?” I ask, suddenly wishing I had never spoken up. “And whether you consulted a physical therapist in doing so, because…”
“Of course I did,” Dr. Davis answers, with a smile that contradicts his rather angry tone. “Dr. Warren and I work very closely on Harlow’s case, as we will be doing with all the patients who I send here for treatment.”
This seems like a subtle threat, designed to point out the obvious: Dr. Davis is in charge here, and intends to be for the foreseeable future.
“These tasks are designed for a member of an elite Special Forces group, to which Harlow belongs,” Dr. Davis continues, as if speaking to a kindergartner. “Harlow is a SEAL, as you know. These men are not just any ordinary patients. They were able to do extraordinary things, and need to be back at those levels before they can be cleared for service. At least, that’s what the military informs me.”
It makes sense, but I still think the tasks are extremely challenging for anyone , even a SEAL. But I clearly need to learn my place. Lance is right— I’ve made enough waves around here. I say nothing further.
Dr. Warren goes over some practical logistics, such as the dates and times of sessions, and meetings amongst staff members afterwards to go over the training plan. We are certainly paying a lot more attention to Harlow than our other patients, but I suppose that makes sense.
Once the meeting wraps up, Dr.
“Guess that means that Whitney and Harlow get some alone time,” Dr. Davis says, as if echoing my thoughts. His voice is childish and taunting. “You kids play nice in the therapy room.”
It’s beginning to seem that Dr. Davis heard my challenge, and accepted it. He has something to prove to me, and I wonder if he chose me for a reason. I can’t help but wonder what that reason is.
But as Harlow and I get up to start heading to our session, I have bigger things on my mind. The fact that he and I will be up close and personal is at the forefront.
I’m finally up close and personal with Mystery Woman, who is no longer such a stranger. I’m close enough I can smell her breath— an intoxicating mixture of toothpaste and coffee. I’m close enough that I could reach out and kiss her, pull her hair and draw her towards me while I fuck her…
“I know that Dr. Warren already went through your medical history and patient questionnaire,” Whitney says, looking studiously through my file. “I have reviewed them, and I’m going to start by running you through some basic agility tests.”
Once we’re in the therapy room, she’s all business. So professional.
It’s sexy. But I’m wondering what happened to the electricity I know I felt between us. She’s obviously doing her best to hide it.
“Sure thing,” I tell her, with a wink.
“I’m going to need to assess your posture and balance,” she says, maintaining her official demeanor. “First, I’ll need you to lay down, in a prone position.”
I obey, slinking down to the hard floor with my stomach and head down and my arms stretched out to the side.
“Perfect,” she says. “Now lift up your left leg, please.”
I do so, and she appears to pause, as if studying me. She puts a hand on my left calf, which I can’t say I don’t enjoy.