Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 39
“Harlow,” he says, as if he’s surprised to see me. “You make it home okay on Friday night?”
“Yes sir. I just…”
“Oh yes, you wanted to talk about your certification status.”
His eyes widen in recognition although it’s clear he had completely forgotten.
“Have a seat.”
I sit down at the chair in front of his desk, trying to appear as patient as possible. He walks over to his locked filing cabinet and then retrieves my file, first having to search for a few seconds to find it. He had clearly forgotten about meeting with me, even though he was the one who had set it up.
“Now, I have some good news and some bad news.”
My palms are sweaty and I can feel my own heartbeat racing. I don’t like the phrase “bad news.”
“The good news is that you are progressing remarkably well. As you know, you were at death’s door step and had significant physical injuries and brain trauma. But now you have come so far. I believe that you are ready to return to combat, but the Powers That Be don’t agree.”
“The Powers That Be?”
“Oh yes. You know, those in the military who look over your file and decide whether you’re fit to fight. They don’t think enough time has passed from your accident until now in order to be assured of your recovery, and they want to see and assess your continued improvement. So, that’s the bad news.”
“But you’ve worked with me this whole time, and everything is back on track,” I tell him. “What else could there possibly be to improve?”
“That’s what I told them,” he says, his hands up and his face showing a look of amazement. “But they don’t believe little old me. Probably because I’m not in the military.”
He holds his hands up and shrugs his shoulders, to double reinforce that it’s completely out of his control.
“So, I’ve decided to refer you out for physical therapy, so that another person will be on board and will be able to give you tests and assessments to independently verify that you’re fit to fight,” he says. “The physical therapy program is through one of the military’s own clinics— right here on the Air Force base— so I’m thinking they’ll have to give that person’s opinion more merit than they’re giving mine.”
“Okay. So where do I go for this treatment? I’d like to get it done as quickly as possible, to show them that you’re right, that I’m good to go back.”
I sigh, feeling completely defeated. I was hoping I might be able to join the rest of the SEALs on their next deployment but apparently, I’m not going back anytime soon. I guess I have no choice but to jump through the hoops they’re setting up for me.
“Of course. One second and I’ll give you that information,” Dr. Davis says.
He types something into his computer and then writes down the name and address that comes up on Google.
“I’ve already set you up for an appointment there at 2 o’clock tomorrow,” he says. “They already know all about you because of the presentation last week, and they’re looking forward to meeting you.”
I think about saying, I wish I could say the feeling was mutual , but I decide against it.
“Now, let me fill you in on the patients we have coming in today,” Dr. Davis says, switching the subject of the conversation as if it was no big deal.
Except that to me, my world has ended, again. Without the SEALs, I’m nothing. Or worse— I’m stuck here being Dr. Davis’ pet project and trying to reassure other guys who are way worse off than I am that Dr. Davis can work miracles for them too.
It’s beginning to feel like I’ll never be back to my comfort zone. This set up with Dr. Davis might just be my new fate.
It may be Tuesday, but to me the day is dragging as if it’s a Monday. I’m at work helping Max. He’s an airman who is learning to adjust to walking with a prosthetic leg. But his progress has been slow-going and I can’t stop thinking about that Harlow guy. Of course, I think about his banging body and handsome face, but mostly I’m lost in thoughts that are a bit more negative in nature.
I wish all my patients had access to the kind of treatment that Harlow is receiving. I’m glad that Dr. Davis will be working with more military members, but we’re so overloaded with those who need physical therapy services that I’m not sure how one doctor could possibly see all of them. And I can’t stop wondering why Dr. Davis chose Harlow instead of many others I have seen come and go.
Sure, he’s sexy and rugged and looks perfect as the actor in Dr. Davis’ demonstrations. But the same could be said for many of the veterans and current service members. Maybe it’s the fact that his story is so powerful— one minute he was rescuing people and the next minute Dr. Davis was rescuing him.
I’m still lost in thought, but trying to concentrate on Max’s balancing exercises, when Lance rushes into the training room.
“Girl, have I got some news for you.”
I look up at him and smile. He always cheers me up no matter my mood, and I’m reminded once against how lucky I am to have a boss like him.
“What is it?”
“Can’t say now, but come to my office when you’re done.”
“Sure,” I say, since I was planning to anyway, with the notes from Max’s session, to go over with and then give to Lance.
Maybe Lance will have some ideas for how to speed up Max’s recovery.
But once the session ends and I’m in Lance’s office, he doesn’t give me time to discuss Max.
“Guess what, guess what, guess what?”
“ What ? Geez, Lance, did you win the lottery or something?”
“You know I’d be in Ibiza right now if I did!” Lance responds. “This is work-related, which can never be as good as winning the lottery. But still. Do you remember that guy from the presentation last week? And that doctor you grilled?”
I try very hard to keep a straight face, knowing that Lance can read me very well. Of course I remember. But I try to remain nonchalant.
“More or less,” I say, shrugging.
“I knew you did, Girl. Stop playing coy with me.” He shakes his head at me, vigorously. “But anyway. Yes, this is the guy of which I speak. And, well, believe it or not…”
And then there’s a knock at the door, which is half-way open anyway. I turn around to see him . Harlow. The object of my thoughts— both good and bad— for the past few days.
He’s standing in my workplace, and he’s looking at me with eyes full of the same surprise that I feel. They’re also full of other things. Lust. Desire. Happiness.
I can’t help but smile back at him even though I have no idea what he’s doing here.
I drive to Pi ñ on Physical Therapy at 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon. It’s earlier than I need to be on the road, but I’ve never been to this facility and I hate being late.
The whole way to the clinic, I feel annoyed that I have to impress some medical nerds just to be cleared for active duty. I doubt they’ve ever been to war. They’re certainly not going to understand my desire to be back.
I walk through the office doors a bit early, but everyone I meet seems excited I’m here. Apparently I’m like a celebrity around here.
“I’m Dr. So-and-So and we’re excited to have you with us.”
“I’m Dr. Whoever and I look forward to helping you fully recover.”
The names and faces blur together.
I am fully recovered , I want to tell them. I’m just fine. I don’t even know why I’m here .
Instead, I smile and nod and look appreciative.
One doctor appears to be the head of the joint. After we shake hands and exchange the normal pleasantries, he takes me into his office and closes the door.
“Mr. Bradford, it is a pleasure to have you with us. The entire staff looks forward to working with you. Dr. Warren, whom you have already met, will be overseeing your treatment to make
I like the sound of that. They can’t think I’m that screwed up if they’ve assigned me to an intern . And it’ll be easy to impress a guy so new and low on the hierarchy.
“I’ll show you around and then I’ll take you to meet her. She’s our top and brightest intern right now. Her name is Whitney Reid.”
Her . A female intern. I can’t say that I expected that but I guess makes sense since some physical therapists are women. I’ll just flirt with her and it’ll be even easier to get her to sign off on my physical fitness.
“I’m looking forward to it,” I tell this doctor, whose name I already forget.
He takes me on a brief tour around the facilities, which do look to be rather state-of-the-art, and introduces me to more people I’m sure I’ll soon forget. Everyone seems to have been made aware that I’d be here, because they look impressed or even embarrassed, bowing slightly and saying things like “the pleasure is all mine” and “please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”
I feel like I’m fucking royalty or something. Sure, I’m used to being on stage and demonstrating my miraculous comeback, but it’s usually as Dr. Davis’ right-hand man. All the credit and glory usually goes to him. I guess I rather like this place.
“And now I’ll introduce you to Whitney,” says the doctor, rapping softly on a door that’s already open. “I’m sure you’ll enjoy working…”
But I’m not listening to him, or looking at him. The only thing taking up all my attention is the woman I’m looking at. The mystery woman.
The one with the ass.
The one with the tits.
The one with the tenacity to question Dr. Davis during an awards ceremony presentation.
It dawns on me that she might not be the best person to work with me. She seemed very skeptical of my progress.
But then she turns away from me, to whisper something to another physical therapist, and I catch a glimpse of her cleavage and then the shape of her ass. I guess maybe physical therapy with this intern won’t be that bad, after all.
I blink when I see Harlow, as if it’s all in my imagination.
I turn to Lance and say, “Is that…?”
“I was in the middle of trying to tell you,” he whispers back.
“Harlow Bradford,” says my patient Max, taking a step forward with his good leg and stretching his arm out. “I’ve heard so much about you. Max Wishard. Senior Airman.”
“Nice to meet you too,” says Harlow, walking through the door and shaking hands with Max.
He’s mere inches away from me now, and I don’t know whether to feel excited or dreadful.
“Your story is so inspiring,” says Max. “It’s helped me get through so much worry and anxiety. I hope to be able to work with Dr. Davis too.”
Harlow bows his head in a grateful nod.
“And how are you doing?” he asks.
“It’s slow going, but I’ll get there. Right, Whitney?”
Max flashes a grin at me and I can’t bear it.
“Great, good to hear,” says Harlow. “Tell me about your story. What unit were you in?”
I’m kind of amazed at how sweet Harlow is being to Max. On stage he came across as some rough-and-tumble tough guy but now he’s being so gentle and encouraging.
And so damn hot. But I can’t let my hormones take over my rational thought process.
“Um, Lance, can I speak with you privately?” I ask, as Max launches into his story to Harlow.
We step into the hall and walk a few feet away.
“So that’s what I was trying to tell you, Whitney,” Lance says, his face an excited glow. “You know how during the conference they announced that we’d be working with Dr. Davis’ patients?”
“Well, it also turns out that we’ll be working with Harlow, his original success story.”
“If he’s a success story then why does he need our help?” I quickly interject.
“Oh my god, Whitney. What’s up with you? This is good news. For the practice, for service members, and for you and your career. You’ve been selected as the intern to work with Harlow.”
“Why me?” I ask, suspicious all over again. “I’m only an intern.”
“You’re a great intern,” says Lance. “Although I hope you don’t let it go to your head. And you know that the interns work with the patients first— with my supervision of course— and then they’re seen further up the chain as needed. That’s really not abnormal.”
Lance is right, but something still seems off.
“Lance, I just think it’s strange. I’m glad Harlow’s made such a turn-around but I don’t want the other patients to have false hope. Not everyone has access to Dr. Davis’ breakthrough treatment and there’s only so much we can do with all of the patients. I’ve worked with Max for the past year and he’s barely made any progress. Yet as soon as he lays eyes on Harlow, it’s like he’s some new religious savior and everything’s going to be great or something.”
“Well, what’s so wrong with that?” Lance challenges. “We both know it’s good for patients to maintain a positive outlook. Maybe Dr. Davis can work with Max, and can help him improve.”
“He’s a facial reconstruction surgeon,” I say, finally being able to put words to one of the nagging thoughts that’s been bugging me. “What does he know about physical therapy?”
“I don’t know, but he definitely improved Harlow’s cognitive and physical functions in addition to his face,” Lance says decisively. “We saw it with our own eyes. Plus, he’s always talking about this new integrative system of treatment that apparently works. And now we have the opportunity to be part of that system. Part of the team. It’s a good thing, not a bad thing, Whitney.”
“Okay,” I say.
All of my concerns have been dismissed. And I really trust Lance. Maybe I’m the crazy one.
“And I’m sure I don’t have to point out,” Lance continues, leaning in close, “that the clinic is very happy to be working with Dr. Davis and Harlow. You certainly don’t want to stand in their way.”
“All right,” I agree, a chill running down my spine at the thought.
It’s true. I’m just an intern here with no power or control, and the evaluations I receive from Pi ñ on will make or break my career.
I think back to how lucky I felt to get this internship. I don’t want to blow it by thinking I know more than everyone else.
“Let’s get back in there. I have a job to do.”
I begin walking resolutely to the therapy room.
“I know I also don’t have to point out how fine that man is,” Lance says, under his breath with a giggle. “If there’s one thing that can convince you to work with him, maybe you should just focus on his appearance.”
I stifle a laugh as I enter the room where Harlow is still talking to Max. My heart pounds in a mixture of excitement and disbelief at the thought of working up close and personal with the man I thought I’d only ever get to see from a distance on stage, and maybe after that in my dreams.
“So, what’s wrong with my little brother?” asks Ramsey.
We’ve met up at Gecko’s after work. This bar is more my style— more of both of our styles than Jensen’s dive bar, actually— and I can always count on Ramsey for good advice.
“I’m just confused,” I confess.
I hate admitting it even to my oldest brother. I’m no pussy but I guess I can’t be a tough guy all the time.
“I really thought I was fit to fight, and Dr. Davis thinks so too, but the military is putting me through all this stupid bullshit. Making me jump hoops to prove I’m ready.”
“I have to go to physical therapy like some old geezer. And to make matter
“ She , huh?”
Ramsey’s eyebrows had been crinkled close together with concern but now he raises them up into two arches, as if he’s curious.
“Yeah, my physical therapist is a chick. A total newbie. Younger than me, I think. And she has some bug up her butt about me.”
Her cute butt , I think, but I don’t say that part.
“Oh yeah? What is there to not like about an arrogant player like you?”
He takes a swig of his drink and laughs, but I’m not in a joking mood. I also hope Whitney doesn’t see me in the same way Ramsey just characterized me. Although I never seemed to have any problem with the “arrogant player” label until I met her.
That’s just further proof that some screw in my head has come loose. I shouldn’t let her get to me like this.
“I just think it’s going to be an uphill battle to convince her I’m ready to go back to the field. She was the one at the conference last week who was grilling Dr. Davis about me, as if she didn’t believe that I’d come as far as I have…”
“ That’s the physical therapy intern you’re working with?” Ramsey sputters, nearly spitting out his drink with his laughter. “I didn’t get a great look at her, unfortunately. But she looked hot. And she was feisty.”
“Yeah, exactly. She just has had it in for me from the start, for some reason. I think I should ask the facility to place me with a different physical therapist.”
“You think they’d do that?”
“Yeah I think so. I mean, they were jumping over themselves with excitement that I was even there. This one poor former Senior Airman with a prosthetic leg was saying how I’m everyone’s hope. I’m starting to think I might let them down…”
“Stop it. You’re very inspirational. I’m sure your story helps a lot of them stay motivated.”