Harlow: A Military Bad Boy Romance: The Bradford Brothers, page 6
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 over- riding 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.
“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 kettle bells.
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.
“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. “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 member of the Special Forces. But I clearly need to learn my place. 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. Warren informs us that Harlow’s training will start today, with a session to immediately follow the meeting. I look at Harlow and he is already looking back at me. We lock eyes and my entire body tingles as I realize that for the next hour, it will just be him and me.
“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 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.
“How far forward can you stretch this leg?” she asks me, and I immediately oblige her request, bringing my heel down to where it almost touches my shoulder.
“And the other leg?”
She keeps a hand on both legs as I stretch my right leg in the same way that I stretched my left.
“You have regained much of your flexibility,” she announces, as if surprised, and I know without looking up that she is checking a box off of some form on her chart. “Now please stand up from that position.”
I do, and she puts a hand on my back as if expecting me to wobble. She anticipates having to steady me, but I’m just fine. She traces my spine with her fingers, and it’s all I can do to breathe normally.
“Now please bend over and touch your toes.”
I do so, without issue.
“Are you sure you’re not looking at some physical fitness test for elementary schoolers?” I tease her, in an effort to break the tension. It works, sort of. She lets out half a laugh.
“All right, a challenge, then,” she says, and I’m definitely up for it. “Stretch your arms forward and hold onto the barre with one hand,” she tells me.
“Like this?” I grab the barre awkwardly while walking my arms out only slightly.
“I want you to stretch your entire body,” she says, demonstrating for me herself on the barre, which was my goal all along.
She flattens her back in front of me and holds onto the barre with one hand while reaching downwards to the floor. In this position I can stare at her curvy ass to my heart’s delight.
“Got it?” she asks, and turns around to check.
I quickly align myself in the correct position, and she nods.
“Very good,” she says, coming around alongside me to place her hands on the small of my back.
“Do you feel any pain here?”
Her hand feels dainty and small on my back. I wish it could linger there just a bit longer.
“Okay, slowly pull yourself up until you’re standing,” she says, keeping a hand on my back while I do so.
“There’s no pain here?”
“Nope. Feels fine.”
“Your report says that you suffered significant spinal injury when the helicopter crashed,” she says, nearly massaging my back now. “And yet now you feel nothing?”
“Right. I mean, it just feels normal.”
See? I want to say. I’m fine. Return me to service. I need to get back to doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
But I’m distracted, because she’s facing me now, with one hand still wrapped around my back, and if I’m not mistaken she’s breathing more heavily. How I wish I could take her in my arms and kiss her. But I don’t want to ruin what is finally looking as if it could turn out to be a good thing in more ways than one.
Time seems to stand still as I’m nearly pressed up against Harlow’s chest. I’ve never felt so conflicted on the job before. On the one hand, I can’t believe he seems to be doing just fine— as healthy as a patient who doesn’t even need physical therapy.
On the other hand, I want to find something wrong with him, not just to appease Dr. Davis but to have my own personal reasons to keep him in physical therapy. To keep him this close to me.
Stop it, I tell myself, but I can’t seem to break away from what would normally be a very unnatural physical therapist- client position. It doesn’t seem like he wants me to break away either. So we just stand there, staring at each other and locked in time and space, until…
I jump at the voice, immediately thinking it belongs to Lance, or— worse— Dr. Warren, and that I’m in big trouble. But before I even turn around I have the feeling it’s Tony. Even though that makes no sense.
“Tony?” I spin around to face the door, hoping that the look on my face isn’t too guilty.
“So this is why you want to break up,” he says, peering at Harlow as if he’s a bug. “This is why you’ve not been coming home until late, and claiming that you feel disconnected from me. It all makes perfect sense now.”
He walks up until he’s dangerously close to me, pressing me up against the barre with his hips.
“When were you going to tell me the truth, Whitney? So convenient to have me think it was your boss, when obviously it was this— this….”
In taking a second look at Harlow, Tony shirks back a bit. Harlow has a good six inches on him, and a lot of muscle.
“This is my client, Tony. I’m working, as you know. How did you even get here?”
“You don’t think they’d let your boyfriend in to see you?” Tony smirks, throwing a challenging glare at Harlow. “I’m her boyfriend. Did she tell you that?”
“Tony, you’re not really my…”
I begin to explain, feeling rather embarrassed at the whole incident. But this just makes Tony even more angry.
“I supported you,” he says, towering over me once again. “All those hours you were away, working or going to school or whatever you were doing. You could never bother to come out with me and my buddies or do anything I wanted to do. Yet I sat patiently at home waiting for you, only to find out you’ve been getting a bit too comfy with your ‘client’…”
He grabs my wrist and presses it against the barre.
“Tony! Stop it…” I begin to say, but Harlow grabs him and pulls him off of me.
“That’s enough, buddy,” Harlow says. “The lady doesn’t appreciate that.”
“Fuck you!” Tony says, nearly spitting on Harlow, and raising his fist to him.
For a second I think he’s going to fight him, but then he appears to realize how foolish this decision would be.
“I’m out of here anyway,” Tony says, heading back towards the door. “I just came to ask you to borrow the car, so I can move out.”
“I think it’s better than you didn’t,” I tell him. “Borrow the car, I mean.”
“Thanks for nothing,” he says, and saunters off.
“Tony, wait…” I say, and then to Harlow, “Just give me a second, please.”
“Sure,” he says, and I can’t express how grateful I am for his understanding. I know it’s not very professional to fight with one’s boyfriend on the clock. Or to leave a client in the middle of his very first session. But I need this drama with Tony to be over with, and I don’t want to have any regrets.
“Thank you,” I tell Harlow.
In the lobby, I keep my voice down low so the receptionist won’t hear.
“Tony, this really wasn’t the best way to go about this.”
“So you’re just going to lecture me now, like you always do?” he asks, his mouth drawn up in a sneer. “So you can go back in there and make out with your client?”
I know he said “client” loudly, and on purpose, to get me in trouble. It was probably a mistake to follow him out here.
“I just want to see if we can end things between us as smoothly as possible,” I tell him. “I never meant…”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re little miss perfect Whitney and you never do anything wrong. Well, good luck finding someone as good as me. I see you drooling over that soldier guy like a little doe- eyed idiot. He’ll just use you and lose you, if he wants anything at all to do with you. You’re not his type. Too intellectual. Not enough of a ditzy cheerleader. And a bit too out of shape, if you know what I mean. You had a good thing with me, and you lost it. I’m not coming back.”
“Okay, Tony,” I tell him, realizing it’s impossible to reason with him right now, or maybe ever. “Goodbye.”
I turn back towards Harlow, relieved that Tony’s in my past and that a new future looms in front of me.
When Whitney returns, she’s noticeably distressed.
“I am so sorry about that,” she says, her head down in an obvious refusal to look at me.
“Your eyes are too pretty to be staring down at the floor like that.”
She has a dimple in her chin that is just too perfect.
I lift her face up to my own.
“Harlow, I…” she begins.
“I know. You have a boyfriend.”
“No. Not anymore. As you could likely tell. I just… I’m your physical therapist, and…”
“I know.” I take my finger off her chin, but she still looks up at me. “It was a reflex. I couldn’t help it. I just hate to see you so damn hurt. He doesn’t deserve you.”
She looks at me like she doesn’t quite believe me. But it’s true. That Tony guy looked scrawny and wimpy, and he sounded like such a loser when he was talking about waiting at home or going out with his friends while she worked and went to school.
“Thank you for the help,” she says. “It got a little scary for a minute. He’s not usually so… upset.”
She looks back down at the floor, obviously embarrassed, and then walks away to retrieve my file from the table where she’d placed it before leaving to talk to Tony in private. Soon her demeanor is professional again.
She doesn’t know this, but I was watching her from the door. I don’t trust that guy, and he clearly has the tendency to get physical, whether she thinks it was out of character or not.
It was sad to see her try to talk to some sense into him while he just acted haughty. She definitely deserves much better.
But you don’t do relationships, I remind myself, as if I need a big brother or father figure to step in and talk some sense into me.
At times like this I wish my father were still alive. For a while Dr. Davis seemed to substitute, but now I’m just becoming impatient with him. And I doubt he’d be happy to hear that I have a thing for the physical therapist to whom he assigned me. Despite all that Dr. Davis has done for me, he could never fill the huge, empty shoes my father left when he passed away.
I make a mental note to call Ramsey— the closest thing I’ve had to a father figure since our own father died— when I’m done with my first session. Although it’s beginning to look like
As if reading my mind, Whitney says, “All right, well. I’m sorry. Where were we?”
She glances down at the list in her hands.
“You were running your hands down my back,” I tease, but she looks uncomfortable.
Tony barging in on our session sure gave her a wakeup call, I suppose.
“And you were giving me the kindergarten physical education tests,” I quickly remind her, to change the subject to something more serious. “And I was passing all of the levels. Do I get a little badge for my Boy Scout uniform or something?”
“Very funny,” she says, but she lets out a genuine laugh, which is nice to hear. “But the tests do get progressively harder. Don’t laugh, but I need to see how many push- ups you can do in a minute.”
“Seriously?” I get down on the floor and begin them before she can even begin timing me her stopwatch. “This really is some little kids’ test.”
Does this place not know how many sit ups I have to do for my physical fitness tests in the Special Ops? Even though I’ve not been able to return to active duty, I’ve kept up with all the standards so that I won’t have any obstacles holding me back from formally participating once I’m cleared for duty.
“All right,” she says, after sixty seconds has passed, and makes a note on her piece of paper. “Now, sit ups.”
We go through all kinds of timed tests— I squat, lift weights, and stretch as if I’m a monkey performing in a circus— and I know I do well on all of them. It’s obvious by my performance as well as the look on her face.
“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.