Authors: Autumn Markus
Tags: #Romance, #General, #Fiction
“It’s Noah, Nicholas, and you’re welcome.” Dr. Call smiled. “I haven’t seen you in years.” Nick nodded, following Dr. Call and sitting on the indicated table. “Your dad tells me you will be joining us at the med school this fall. I’m glad to hear it.” As he was speaking, Dr. Call began gently examining Nick’s aching shoulder. After several uncomfortable moments, Nick was relieved when Dr. Call nodded and patted his uninjured shoulder. “Okay, I want to X-ray this and get an MRI, but I’m pretty sure you have some stretching of the ligaments and perhaps a small tear. If I’m right, you’ll have to baby this to be ready for school in a couple of months.”
Nicholas glared at Conor and then relented when he saw how miserable Con looked.
After the X-ray, Dr. Call confirmed his initial diagnosis. “It’s just as I thought. I want an MRI to be absolutely sure, but for now I’m going to give you a tight sling, and send you down to our physical therapy department to have a treatment plan worked out. They’re very good with caring for this type of injury, since they work with the school athletes. Call tomorrow and I’ll have your MRI scheduled.” He walked Nicholas to the door, asking pleasant questions about Nick’s mom and dad.
As they reached the door, Nick noticed Conor wasn’t with them any longer. Nick turned to see Con watching a tall, curvaceous blonde step off the elevator. She noticed him watching, smiled wickedly, and put a little extra swing into her walk as she sauntered down the hall. Conor watched with great pleasure; even Nick had to pause for a minute, before he realized that Dr. Call’s voice was getting fainter.
Nick grabbed his roommate’s arm and hurried to catch up to Dr. Call, who hadn’t noticed that they had stopped.
“You and Mr. Grady should come over for dinner tomorrow, Nicholas. I’ll have the scheduler give you the address when you call about your MRI.” Dr. Call handed Nicholas his orders for the physical therapy department, gave him directions to the PT suite, and headed out the door after a final wave.
Conor clutched his chest theatrically, his head still turned to watch the elevator door close behind the girl. “I think I’m gonna like Cali, Nick.”
Jena thought, rubbing her neck.
The football team was on campus for training, and it had been a mad dash from one ass grab to the other all week as Trav and Jena worked out treatment plans for all of the idiots who thought they could screw around and pound beers for two months and still come back to camp in shape. The coach was known for being merciless in the first week back, and the PT workload was showing it. Just that day, Jena had treated guys with sprained ankles and wrists and hamstring injuries, and she swore to God, if one more fool asked her if having a groin pull meant he
a groin pull, she was gonna go Lizzie Borden on his johnson. Whack-whack.
Finally, the last joker on the agenda was due, and Jena was determined to let Travis handle him. Tom Finley was a wrestler, known campus-wide for his Roman hands and Russian fingers, and he didn’t give up easily. Fuck that. Last time she’d worked with him, Jena was forced to bloody his nose “accidentally” with her elbow before he would let go of her boob.
“Hey, Travis, I’m heading out since we have only one more customer waiting,” Jena said casually, passing him the last file and hoping he would let it slide when he saw the name. “Do you want me to pick up anything for dinner on my way home? I was thinking Thai sounded good.” Jena dangled the prospect of his favorite food waiting when he got off work in front of him, hoping he’d bite.
“Sounds good, sugar, but no can do.” He straightened up from the desk where he had been finishing the chart on his last patient. Since he and Leisa had been fucking like bunnies, Travis’s normally calm demeanor had become almost coma-like, and his usually faint Montana twang was more pronounced. Jena didn’t know if he was too damn tired to restrain it, or if it had something to do with Leisa’s love of all things cowboy. If a saddle appeared in the living room, Jena wouldn’t be surprised. As long as it wasn’t on Travis, she could deal.
“Carrie called from the front desk, and we have a new patient coming down right now. Shoulder injury. We’re supposed to talk about proposed treatment and show him around. Sounds pretty easy. You take that, and I’ll handle the meathead.” Travis smiled and attempted to ruffle Jena’s hair, but since it was in a braid he didn’t do much damage.
Jena sprang up, using both hands to ruffle Travis’s hair into his eyes. Usually that would be grounds for a major war, as Travis’s hair was sacred to him, but this time he just laughed. “You think you’re messin’ with me, Jen, but I don’t care,” he said nonchalantly, winking at Jena. “It’s just gonna look like this in about an hour anyway.”
“No way!” she screeched. “I’ve had to leave the house every night this week. I’ve seen every movie in town. Leisa is
staying over tonight.”
As he turned to argue, the receptionist stepped in and handed him a chart. “Look sharp, guys. This one is a special request from Dr. Call.”
Travis whistled. “Straight from the big guy himself. Too bad
get to earn all of the brownie points for an easy one.” He took a look at the name on the chart and his shoulders started to shake with restrained laughter. “This should be good.” He held the folder out to Jena.
Travis laughing about a client was not a good sign. Jena reached out gingerly to take the chart from him, like he was extending a deadly viper in her direction. “What?” she asked. She looked and froze.
. “No fucking way,” Jena whispered, and immediately shoved the folder back at Trav.
He backed away, hands up in front of him, grinning. “You made me promise you’d never have to work with King Kong again, Jen. This should be an easy one for you, since you’re intimately acquainted with the shoulder in question. I’d bet he’ll do whatever you want.” He dropped into the desk chair, eyes sparkling.
“This is not funny, Travis,” Jena hissed at him, looking nervously over her shoulder to be sure Carrie wasn’t taking it upon herself to try to earn
brownie points with Dr. Call by taking Nicholas on a personal tour of the facility.
Jena unleashed the full power of puppy dog eyes on Travis. “I really can’t do this.
take this chart, and I’ll do anything! I’ll buy dinner and go out for the night. I’ll even stay in a hotel for the weekend so you and Leisa can deface the entire apartment with bodily fluids until I have to come home on Sunday.”
Travis was immune, damn him. “That’s just nasty, baby. I always corral those little swimmers. On the other hand…” His eyes glazed and he drifted off for a minute. Suddenly, his glance toward Jena became calculating. “Tell you what. You stay out of the house tonight and I’ll take The Stud. But I think you’re making a mistake, Jen. This is the perfect time to see what’s up with the guy.”
Jena felt the red begin to creep across her face. “No, thanks. So we have a deal. You get him and I get The Perv.” She sighed. The trade was wickedly unfair. “Do you have an extra set of scrubs I can borrow?”
Travis looked at Jena’s exercise shorts and fitted tee, her regular work clothes, and grimaced. “Yeah, I guess you shouldn’t tempt Tom any more than you have to.” He reached into his gym bag on the floor and handed Jena a set of blue scrubs. “Although I think you’d have to whack your tits off to discourage him much.”
“Nasty right back at ya, honey.” Jena slapped his head. Heading toward the locker room, she called over her shoulder, “Can you check if Mr. Grabby’s waiting yet while I change?”
“And see if Mr. Sexy is already in the waiting room, so you can avoid him?” Travis rolled his eyes and headed out toward the waiting area.
Tom was waiting on the massage table when Jena left the locker room and his session went about as well as she had expected. Jena had to make him lie back on the table to avoid his hands so she could work on loosening his leg muscles before he started on the machines. Finley had injured his knee in his last match the previous year, and was trying to get off the bench this season. All Jena could say was that it was too bad he hadn’t injured his arms when he wrecked his knee. It didn’t help her patience level that she was tense about Nicholas coming in.
Though her back was to the door leading into the therapy room, Jena knew the moment Nicholas and Travis entered. A tingle ran up and down her spine, and a second later she heard Travis explaining the usual treatments for stretched ligaments. He started to give Nicholas the ten-cent tour of the machines, and Jena casually shifted her position to keep her back to the pair.
“Are you cold, sweetheart?”
Jena glanced up at Mr. Pervy and found him staring with rapt attention at her chest, which was busily giving him a show even through the baggy scrubs. Crap.
“Down, boy.” Jena tried to sound as bored as she could and moved back a step, but not far or fast enough. Tom sat up suddenly and reached out, grabbing her forearm and hauling her close to him.
“I have tons of body heat to share, gorgeous,” he murmured in what he probably thought was a sexy voice, trying to lick Jena’s neck.
Jena grabbed his nose between the second knuckles of her right hand and twisted just a little, enough so he gasped and let go of her arm.
“Tom, we talked about this before, remember? Personal space, my friend.” He nodded, muttering something below his breath. “We need to work on the machines now, so are you going to behave?” He nodded again.
Jena let go slowly, watching Tom carefully; he seemed disinclined to attack again so she handed him his crutches and helped him hobble to the first machine. The rest of the session went well, though half of Jena’s attention was always following Travis and Nicholas around the room. Finally the routine was almost over, and Jena was anticipating a quick dash to the changing room to hide until Nicholas was gone when the Lickin’ Loser decided to try again.
“Okay, last set.” As she turned toward the last machine, Jena’s head jerked back slightly. She sighed as she realized that Dumbass had grabbed her braid. “Damn it, Finley! I’ve had enough of this crap. Let me go now.”
He shook Jena’s braid and pulled her toward him, chuckling. “What if I don’t want to, honey?”
Enough screwing around
, Jena thought.
“Tom, this is your last chance. I know the coach has been ordered to cut you from the team if there are any more incidents of sexual harassment, and this qualifies, stupid.”
He just tugged her back a little more. Jena glanced across the room, and spotted Nicholas and Travis watching closely, Nicholas with concern. Travis knew better than to step in.
“Dumbass,” Jena muttered, turning quickly and grabbing the wrist of Tom’s clutching hand, pressing on a nerve that she knew would cause his fingers to immediately relax. The excruciating pain was just a side benefit. She almost felt sorry for him as his high, drilling shriek rang out, and he clutched the hand to his chest. Problem solved.
Jena almost forgot her audience as she checked Finley’s hand and sent him on his way. Just in case he rediscovered he had balls, she quickly wrote up the incident and reminded herself to get Travis to include a verifying note.
The tiny hairs that had escaped from Jena’s braid during the fracas suddenly stiffened, and she was surrounded by a very familiar scent.
“Jena?” Nicholas’s voice was low and rich, and in this moment, unsure.
Jena felt her shoulders slump forward a tiny bit more before she gathered her courage, raised her head, and turned to face him.
Her dreams hadn’t even begun to do him justice. Even her memory fell short. When she had last seen Nicholas in college, he was a beautiful young man, lithe and lean. Her memory of their New Year’s Eve tryst was clouded by booze, darkness, and lust. Now Jena had her hands full just trying not to stare.
Oh, my Lord
, Jena thought.
I slept with that.
Jena realized she had stared a second too long, because his already tentative smile began to fade. Oh, right. He was talking now.
Jena Baker, right? I saw you across the room, and I’ve been trying to decide,” Nicholas said in a rush. “I asked…Travis, right? He said you went to UO…” Nick’s words trailed off, to be replaced by an awkward silence as color began to rise from his shirt collar.
Time to stop staring at him.
She shot a grinning Travis a death glare before shaking her head slightly and answering Nicholas, looking somewhere in the region of his chin to avoid his eyes. “Oh…yeah. Hi.”
Nicholas’s smile widened, and he reached out for an awkward left-handed shake. “Wow, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it?” He held Jena’s hand for a second longer than normal before dropping it.
She felt herself flush. New Year’s had been a while ago, true, but not so long that Jena had forgotten the feel of his stubbly chin on her stomach, or his tongue, or…
“Yeah, it has.” Jena shifted uneasily, regretting her decision to stare at his chin. It was simply too close to his neck, where she found her attention focused on the tendon she had nibbled on until he moaned.
Dragging her eyes upward, Jena smiled. “What have you been up to, Nicholas?”
He shrugged, leaning against the machine behind him. “I’ve been living in Boston for the last six years or so. My friend and I just moved to Davis yesterday.” He grimaced, gesturing toward the sling. “Moving injury.”
“Ouch.” Jena smiled sympathetically. “How will she like unpacking alone? ’Cause you sure won’t be able to do much for a while.”
“Conor isn’t a she, and he’ll be a jackass and only unpack what he needs.” He smiled. “It’s so weird seeing you again. I was just talking about you with Rich Scheller last night.” A shadow crossed his face, and Jena wondered what he was thinking about. She could imagine what Rich had said to Nicholas, and flushed again.
“How was Rich?”
A muscle in Nicholas’s jaw tightened briefly. “A total asshat, like usual. It was a place to sleep last night until we could get into our apartment this morning.”
Jena and Nicholas both smiled and then just looked at each other, saying nothing. Although it could have been awkward, Jena was surprised to find that she felt peaceful…until Nicholas reached out and tucked an errant hair behind her ear, letting his fingertips trail lightly down her neck before his eyes widened and his hand dropped hastily to his side. Tension began to curl in Jena’s stomach, and she felt it swirling around them both before a bright voice cut through the room.
Nicholas stepped back and turned to smile at Leisa as she crossed to him and hugged his arm. “Wow, gorgeous, how long has it been?”
He squinted one eye in mock concentration. “Let’s see…I believe it was my junior year, Leisa.” His eyes sparkled with humor. “You were drunk off your ass and kept Jena from walking home with me from Diane’s party, remember?” His warm smile and a quick look included Jena in his joking remembrance. “That’s the last time I saw either of you until today.”
Jena thought that she must have made some noise, because Nicholas glanced at her questioningly.
Leisa laughed loudly, drawing Nick’s attention back to her. “How could I forget? I had a headache for three days and gave Jena hell for three years for being so stupid. So, what happened to you? You never came back to practices, and no one heard from you.”
Nicholas’s smile faded. “Long story. Short version—I had to move back to Boston quickly. I’m here now, though, to finish up med school…”
Jena tuned them both out, drowning in a shock pool. He didn’t remember. The best damned night of her entire existence, and he didn’t remember a thing.
Son of a bitch.
She didn’t know whether to feel insulted or relieved that she would be spared the embarrassment of him thinking she was a crazy, sex-maniacal tramp. As Jena was working out that little dilemma, she felt Leisa knock on her forehead.
“Hey, girl! Where did you go?”
Quickly bringing her mind back to the present, Jena found them both looking at her, Nicholas with amusement and Leisa with sympathy. She plastered on a bright smile. “Sorry. This day has been totally fucked.”