Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 42
“That’s good for today,” she says, nodding resolutely. “I need to talk with my supervisor about the results of your assessment but I think they went quite well.”
“Will you be speaking to Dr. Davis?” I ask hopefully.
She is obviously thinking about my question, but she’s slow to answer.
Finally, she says, “Next time I’d like to take you outside, to the track. If your assessments out there are as good as they are in here, I do think that pending my supervisor’s recommendations, I will need to bring Dr. Davis up to speed on the results of my initial tests.”
This news is as good as anything I’ve heard in awhile.
I want to pick her up, spin her around and kiss her, but of course I don’t. I just say “Thank you. Really.”
I know she doubted me at first but I clearly proved her wrong, just as Ramsey said I would. And I have to admit I’ve had a fun time doing it.
I can’t get him off my mind.
The way he looked as he did his squats.
The way he felt when he was so close to me that he almost kissed me— and I can’t help but feel that he wanted to do that.
The way he smelled: a masculine mix of sweat and raw desire.
The way he felt: his soft touch as he lifted my face up to look at him, his strong back against my fingertips.
Before heading home, I stop by Lance’s office.
“What was that ruckus with McMoocher all about?” he asks, as soon as he sees me. “You had the whole place talking about it.”
“Don’t ask me,” I tell him, embarrassed that everyone knows my personal business. “But it won’t be happening again. We are over . I’m done with him. In fact, I need to talk to Cheryl. She never should have let him past the receptionist desk in the first place, and now it’s especially important she not let him through.”
“I’m so glad you finally decided to kick that deadbeat to the curb. But as far as Cheryl is concerned, I doubt he could be reasoned with,” Lance says. “From all accounts he was awfully upset to find you working with Hunky McHunkerson.”
“Very funny,” I laugh. “But on that note…”
Lance sits down at his desk and appears more business-like. I hand him the assessment sheet I was working on with Harlow.
“Turns out I was wrong,” I confess. “I really thought Dr. Davis was exaggerating Harlow’s remarkable recovery. But he passed all the basic tests with flying colors.”
Lance skims through the list, looking skeptical.
“I know. I couldn’t believe it either. I have patients that can’t do any of this stuff after months and months, and during his very first session, Harlow just showed up and blew me away.”
“Did he now?” Lance raises an eyebrow. “And what did you do for him ?”
“Lance,” I groan. “I’m serious. Now I’m kind of perplexed about why Harlow is even here . He doesn’t seem to need our help. I guess Dr. Davis did everything we would have done. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
“Are you sure he performed this well?” Lance asks, which hurts my feelings.
Lance knows me enough to know that even though Harlow is hot as hell, I’m a professional through and through and I wouldn’t make up these results.
“I’m not accusing you of lying,” Lance says, “even though it is rather suspicious that you break up with McMooch and start advocating for McHunk on the very same day.” He laughs. “I just wonder if maybe your results weren’t colored by… admiration, shall we say?”
I shrug. “I can see how you’d think that’s possible, but I saw him excel at all the tests with my own two eyes. You’re welcome to come to the next appointment and see for yourself.”
“I may drop in,” he says. “But good job today. On dumping the moocher and on getting with the program and working with McHunk. I told you it wouldn’t be so bad.”
Not bad at all.
I feel elated as I drive home, even though I know I should still feel sad about my apparent break-up with Tony. I’m glad that I was off base with my suspicions about Harlow. And I’m happy that he’s doing so well. Maybe Dr. Davis isn’t even so bad after all.
I also can’t help reminiscing about my first session training Harlow. As I pull up to my cul-de-sac I see that Tony and one of his friends are there, with a pick-up truck.
But I don’t want to be around until he’s done moving out.
I head to a nearby coffee shop, where I can immerse myself in the latest romance book by my favorite author. As I begin the book, I savor the juicy main character but I know he’s got nothing on Harlow.
I can’t help but wish that Harlow would have taken his fingers from my chin and traced them over my lips, then down my throat and neck. If we were alone, he could have unbuttoned my blouse and caressed me in a way that Tony never bothered to do.
Harlow seems as if he’d be an attentive lover, who would spend time rubbing and licking me before finally taking me in the way we both know he wants to. I bet he could give me my very first orgasm.
“Can I get you anything else, Miss?”
I jolt out of my fantasizes to see the barista standing in front of me with a washcloth in her hand. I look around and realize it’s late; I’m the last patron here and she’s waiting to clean my table and leave.
I was so lost in my thoughts about Harlow that I also lost track of time. I have to get home and get to bed; I have an early day tomorrow.
I can’t believe I had a real, live heartthrob in my therapy room earlier. And I get to work with him again soon. I have the best job ever.
It’s been a day since my first therapy session with Whitney, but I still can’t forget about it. I’m at my “office” at Dr. Davis’ facilities but in my mind, I’m still in that room with Whitney. I’m wishing I had bent her over the barre and taken her from behind. I’m sure that would have made her forget all about her putz of an ex.
“Harlow, there’s a patient I need you to speak to,” Dr. Davis says, quite gruffly, stepping into my office without knocking.
“All right.” I look up at Dr. Davis’ large frame looming above my seated position.
I hope my annoyance isn’t too obvious.
“He’s an airman,” Dr. Davis continues, “who is undergoing phase 1 of his reconstructive surgery tomorrow.”
I help Dr. Davis with administrative tasks but my main job is to talk to the patients who are scared of upcoming procedures. I tell them that I too was once in their position, and was also scared, but that everything turned out great.
When I meet with this patient, he looks like a deer caught in headlights, as they often do. But he’s also happy to see me, which is also a common reaction.
“Hello, Harlow, I’m Jesse Morrow,” he says, shaking my hand.
“Harlow Bradford,” I say, and then immediately feel foolish. “But I guess you already know that.”
“I’m so glad to talk to you,” he says, after Dr. Davis formally introduces us and leaves the room. “And to have the opportunity to work with Dr. Davis just like you did.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” I tell him, looking him straight in the eye, or at least the piece of skin that is covering what used to be his eye. “Are there any questions I could try to answer for you?”
I know how awful it felt to never have anyone look at me. At first Dr. Davis gave me a mask to wear while “in transition” between my wounded face and my “fixed” face, but it looked pretty obviously fake. I never knew which was worse— my horrible scarred and mutilated face, or my fake face.
“How long did it take you to get back to normal?” he asks. “You seemed to have made such a quick rebound.”
“I guess I did,” I say, looking at him thoughtfully. “I’m really not sure how to answer that question because my memory immediately after the accident and upon waking up is very fuzzy.”<
I remember lying bed-bound at Walter Reed wishing I would have just died. I remember being too embarrassed when even my brothers or mother came to visit me. I felt that I had let them down, let everyone down. I worried I’d never walk again, although walking didn’t end up being too much of an issue.
“I feared the worst for a while, which is normal after trauma,” I tell him, trying to spin my message to be as uplifting and positive as I can.
Dr. Davis has made it clear that my job is to help reassure the patients, not further depress them. Although I can still remember and relate to the depression phase all too well.
“But everything worked out fine,” I reassure Jesse.
I’ve seen the videos— of course, since Dr. Davis plays them all the time— of my initial attempts to do simple tasks such as eat, talk or write. But luckily, although the humiliation is forever recorded, it doesn’t take up a large amount of room in my memory.
Dr. Davis has explained that the human brain has protection mechanisms to shield itself from things that would be too powerful to handle. Kind of like when victims can’t remember being abused. My body can’t remember being that helpless. Thank God, or I might not ever have found the will to be strong again.
“So how is it, being back with your unit?” Jesse asks, his eyes searching my face for a happy reunion story. “I know you’re a SEAL and that the tasks you do are especially difficult. Is it ever painful to perform your job duties? And was the transition hard? Were they happy to have you back?”
“Actually…” I begin.
How do I put a positive spin on this, the one thing I still feel so negatively about? The one thing I have not been able to achieve despite my greatest attempts?
“The whole unit has been so supportive, and helpful. I see them often, but…”
I look at his eager face, not wanting to tell him that I still haven’t been cleared for duty. I’m sure he’ll ask how that can be the case, with all the progress I’ve made. And I really wouldn’t have an answer for him.
I hate not having the answers for everyone, but it’s part of the job. Just like when they ask me if their results will be the same as mine. Of course I try to be encouraging but no two patients are equal.
In fact, I don’t know of anyone who has had such a successful comeback as I have managed to have, and I don’t want to fill them with false hope. It’s a delicate balance to try to dispense the right amount of hope.
Dr. Davis swoops into the room and saves me from having to go into an awkward explanation of my current duty status.
“I’m glad you boys hit it off, but it’s time to wrap it up,” he says, and I’m annoyed at the paternal tone his voice takes on yet again. “There are pre-op duties to attend to.”
“Nice to have chatted with you…” I begin, but Jesse grabs my arm and won’t let go.
“Can you be there when I get out of surgery?” he asks.
It’s an odd request, and one I haven’t heard before. But I’ve certainly heard that tone before, and I know what it really means. What tough, strong service members are thinking but will not say. I’m scared. And lonely. Please stay by my side.
Dr. Davis is shaking his head, but I had already said “I’ll see what I can do” before I noticed.
He frowns, but Jesse is happy. He squeezes my forearm.
“Thank you. I really appreciate it.”
Before heading home for the day, I swing by Dr. Davis’ office.
“Harlow,” he says. “I’m glad you stopped by. Listen, don’t agree with patient requests without checking with me first. It’s not ideal for you to attend surgeries. They’re messy, and unsanitary. I’m sure you understand.”
I nod, but I don’t say anything. I guess it’s not really my call.
“Yes. But Doc, I wanted to let you know that my first physical therapy session went really well.”
“Did it?” he asks.
I almost detect a hint of surprise, or even anger, in his voice, but that would make no sense.
“Yes. I’m sure the… people… from the PT facility will talk to you about it soon,” I continue, visions of Whitney’s curves dashing through my mind, “but I just wanted to be the first to let you know. I think I passed all the initial tests and things are about to become more challenging but I feel confident that I’ll continue to pass whatever I need to pass next.”
He looks down at a random file in his hand— probably belonging to Jesse, the airman to whom I’ve just spoken— as if our conversation is over. But I can’t resist pressing just a little harder.
“Do you think if the next rounds of assessment go well, that I can get back in soon?” I ask, although what I really want to ask is when ?
“Harlow, I wish I had better answers for you,” he says, his words reminding me of how I myself talked to Jesse just a little bit ago. “But, as I’ve said, it’s out of my hands. The military makes the call. The physical therapists have input at this point but I really don’t. I’ve explained my position to them and that’s that.”
“I just hate having to jump through so many hoops,” I tell him. “This PT today…”— don’t think too hard about her , I will myself— “was having me do the most humiliating exercises. As if I was a little kid. And she was impressed, as if she hadn’t believed I could do them. It’s embarrassing, actually.”
“Don’t be a pussy,” Dr. Davis says, returning to the relaxed demeanor I’m more familiar with. “You can easily handle some uppity intern. Of course you impressed her. She was probably falling all over herself for such a hot stud. You were a goddamn SEALs for Christ’s sake.”
I am a SEAL , I want to correct him. I was , and I still am .
“But Harlow, just because you impressed a new intern doesn’t mean the military thinks you’re up to combat level. I’m just trying to be straight with you.”
I sigh, and nod. I have no idea what they want me to prove, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes.
Whitney was the first hurdle and it was easier than I thought to crack her resistance. Now to move on to where it really counts. Impressing the Powers That Be in the military, whoever they are.
And just who are they, anyway? I wonder. And how exactly do I go about impressing them?
I think about Jensen’s offer to have his lawyer girlfriend Riley help me out.
“Is there some kind of an appeal board we could go talk to?” I ask him. “To see if they will just take your recommendation instead of putting me through all these ridiculous and unnecessary tests? Certainly they’ve all been impressed by your work and they know what kind of progress I’ve made. Maybe with a lawyer or something, they might see things differently.”
“Harlow, you don’t know how bad of an idea that is. You need to impress these people with your physical skills, not threaten them with some outside lawyer. As I’ve told you, the way to win is to have the physical therapists agree with my assessments and certification.”
“Okay. Yes, of course.”
I feel stupid for suggesting anything different. He has told me all of this before, but I guess that as usual I’m being pig-headed. Of course the threat of litigation is a bad idea. I was just pulling at any available straws, because I hate feeling this helpless.
“I’ll see how it goes with continued sessions with the intern, then,” I say, heading out of his office.
And of course I definitely mean that in more ways than one.
Harlow pants as he finishes his timed run. When I pant, I look like an idiot and sound like a dog. But when Harlow pants, it’s sexy. Just like everything else that Harlow does.
“Good job!” I tell him, stopping the watch and making a note on his log. “You did it with plenty of time to spare. That was two miles in nine minutes, forty- one seconds.”
He trots over to me, with a goofy— yet still sexy, of course— smile on his face. It looks like he’s a
It’s awkward, but I don’t care. Harlow has a look in his eyes that says if I weren’t your physical therapy patient and we weren’t outside for everyone to see, we’d be celebrating with a victory fuck instead of a victory handshake .
Or maybe that’s just what I imagine he’s thinking. Or want him to be thinking.
“Hate to crash the victory party,” I hear Lance’s familiar voice say, and I quickly drop Harlow’s hand. “But I just came to check in on our hero’s progress.”
His tone is light but the usual wink isn’t in his eyes. I have a feeling he’s not happy with the level of chumminess between Harlow and me. I do my best to sound professional.
“Oh yes, of course,” I say.
I could kick myself for inviting Lance to observe this session, and then forgetting that I’d done that.
“Harlow continues to be passing all of his assessments with flying colors,” I continue. “His walking and running times are particularly good. That’s why we were just… uh… high- fiving each other.”
Thank goodness he didn’t go for the hug!
I hand my clipboard to Lance so that he can see the times I’ve noted.
“Really?” says Lance, looking at the latest time. “I would love to see that.”
“Sure,” says Harlow, and starts jogging back to the starting line on the track.
“Harlow, you don’t have to do it again…” I start to protest, but he waves me off as if it’s no big deal.
“Take it easy, you’re still recovering,” I say under my breath, since it’s no use to try to tell him.
He probably wants to do it again. He likes showing off. And yet, I’m afraid he won’t be able to repeat the performance and Lance will think I’m fudging the numbers in his favor. He clearly thinks we have some kind of romance going on.
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