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       Jacked, p.9

           Tina Reber

  Despite the fact that he had me in handcuffs at one point, he and his entire sexy package were stuck in my mind in vivid color.

  Sarah scraped the chair across the tiled floor before settling in, appearing quite excited about something. “Hey, guess what?”

  I twisted the stem on my untouched apple, waiting—knowing Sarah would keep talking whether I answered her or not.

  She tugged her scrub top down over her baby belly and unzipped her lunch bag. “Vicky just told me that she overheard Randy and the evil troll fighting outside the X-ray room and apparently it was pretty heated.” She bit into her sandwich. “Maybe he’s finally realizing what a huge mistake he made.”

  And just like that, the man who had dominated most of my spare mental space came tap-dancing back through my thoughts. Was that an inkling of hope that just fluttered through me? Damn it. Why I do this shit to myself? I opted for bland indifference, knowing exactly why he dumped me. “I don’t think so.”

  “What? That’s it? I thought you’d be thrilled.” She actually looked surprised.

  Oh God, I so didn’t want to get into this conversation but I knew she was doing her best to give me something else to think about. “Come on, Sarah. Randy and I… Look, it’s over. It’s been over for a very long time. You know that. I’m over it. Please, let it drop.”

  Sarah rolled her eyes. “You’re so full of shit.”

  I felt my shoulders slump and the beginnings of another headache forming. “What do you want me to say? Please don’t do this to me right now.”

  “I’m sorry,” she muttered contritely. “I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

  I thought Sarah had resigned the topic until she tossed out, “Shame. He’s got such a nice ass. Too bad he is one.”

  Great. Now I’m forced to think about my ex’s ass. It was a very fine ass, indeed—especially bare and cupped in my hands when he ground his hips into me. Not stellar like Officer Trent’s spectacular black cargo pants ass, but still not a bad ass. Bad ass. I snorted at my own joke. Randy and the good-looking detective were on opposite ends of the bad-ass spectrum, that was for sure.

  “What’s so funny?” she asked, even though she was smiling, too.

  I decided to keep that one to myself.

  Sarah bit into her sandwich again, and chewed while eyeing me over. She gave my shoulder a quick rub. “Sweetie, you look so wiped. Are you sure you want to stay here all night?”

  I nodded. The trauma here would be far better than the trauma from me being left with free time to dwell on things.

  “I thought you would have headed out with your parents, or are they still up in ICU?”

  I shook my head, stifled a yawn, and picked at my untouched chicken salad. “No, they left an hour ago. I can’t sit and watch my mom cry anymore and I’m sure that’s all she’s doing right now. She’s taking my Aunt Karen’s death very hard. If she loses her brother, well, I don’t know if she’ll be able to deal.”

  Sarah wiped her mouth then gave me a sympathetic smile. “Why don’t you just go home and get some sleep? Maybe we can get someone from Security to drive you home. You won’t get any rest curling up on that crappy bed in the on-call room.”

  I had thought about going home several times, but having the distraction of being at the hospital was a much better option. “Nah, that’s okay. I’m good. Besides, Doctor Wilson left and there’s no way I’d leave trauma short a doctor tonight, despite his orders. It’s been a non-stop madhouse with no signs of slowing down.”

  Sarah stared at me while she continued to chew. “Ballsy. He’s going to be pissed; you know that.”

  Whatever. “Better to ask for forgiveness than approval? Who knows, maybe we’ll get a kid with a toy crammed in his ear tonight and then my services will be totally justified.”

  Sarah laughed. “One can only hope, but it’s pretty late for kids to be cramming stuff in their ears. I can’t believe they reduced overnight pediatric trauma coverage. Whoever made that decision needs their head examined. As if we aren’t understaffed as it is.”

  Thankfully life in the adult ER never stood still. I kept a low profile just in case video footage of my debacle snuck out into the world without me knowing. I didn’t sign their stupid waiver, but no sense drawing extra attention. I was mastering the art of blending into the scenery while taking care of patients.

  That was until Randy came out of exam room four, nearly running me over in the hallway. He sideswiped my arm. “Whoa, sorry.”

  I stepped around him, giving him a wide berth. Secretly pining for him as the “one that got away” was a waste of time.

  “Hey, Erin?”

  I skidded to a stop, squeaking the floor with my sneakers. “Yeah?” Hope actually surged its way in for a moment. I beat it down before it had a chance to get ridiculous.

  He took a few steps until he was close enough to gently stroke my shoulder, sending all sorts of mixed messages into my befuddled brain. “Listen, I know things have been rough between us but I’m serious. If there’s anything you need, don’t be afraid to ask, okay? I can cover a few shifts for you, whatever. Whatever you need.”

  What? He chose this moment to be nice? After I spent all that time wishing, crying, hoping he’d just show an ounce of care for me when we were dating, he decides now to play the thoughtful card? Yeah, you know what I need? How about you spontaneously combust or get run over by a beer truck for breaking my heart? Or how about you break up with your evil troll girlfriend, plead at my feet, telling me what a stupid asshole you’ve been, and then beg me to take you back? Or simply be the kind of man I could wake up next to who would just hold me and let me cry it out instead of being a spineless, chickenshit bastard?

  Instead, I just nodded, trying not to break down in tears and/or throat punch him. I didn’t go to medical school and endure four years of grueling residency to cry over death or heartbreaking co-workers with nice asses. I had more important reasons.

  “Thanks,” I muttered, taking a step backwards, my silent statement that his hands were no longer free to roam over any part of my body.

  His concern seemed awfully touchy-feely. “If you need to take a few days, do it. Your family needs you. Forget about this place and go relax, okay?”

  I felt my words stick like a wad of gum in my throat, knowing Randy was not only my tormenting heartache, he was also my competition. “You and I both know that’s impossible.”

  Randy scowled at me. “That’s your problem. You always make things more difficult than they need to be, Erin.”

  I knew my mouth was agape when I watched him walk backwards while giving me the “that’s the way it is” look.

  You son of a…

  Of course it was me that was the difficult, confused one in this equation. Silly me for thinking that months and months of sex and sleepovers and leaving his stuff all over my apartment constituted a relationship when the entire time I was nothing more than a casual fuck buddy to him.

  God, he was so aggravating. The urge to clock him with an IV pole was powerful. I balled my hands into fists instead, holding back my daily desire to scream and throw a mini tantrum every time our paths crossed. It would do me no good to lose it. I’d spent enough time sobbing in my pillow, being angry, feeling inadequate, and overanalyzing every moment we had spent together trying to figure out where I went wrong. Where we went wrong. He wasn’t worth it.

  Familiar tones chimed through the air, pulling me from my inner turmoil to focus back on an incoming ambulance.

  “We’ve got an injured police officer en route,” Todd, one of our male nurses, announced after fielding the emergency call.

  “Male, age thirty-two, single laceration to the left palm, BP one thirty over eighty, ETA seven minutes,” he continued, feeding the information to Sarah to input into our computer system.

  My heart sank hearing that we had another injured cop coming in. That would be four total in the last five weeks and one of them we lost on the table from a gunshot wound.

/>   Damn, not another one of the good guys.

  Somewhere over the years of my residency in the trauma unit I unconsciously started placing patients into two mental categories: those who deserved a trip to the ER and those who most certainly did not.

  Junkies, drunk drivers, gang-bangers—when they passed through those double doors, a victim of their own stupidity, I had a hard time feeling sorry for them, even though it was my job to save their lives. Car accidents, injured cops, and most everyone else got placed in the victim of circumstance box.

  And now another one of Philly’s finest was joining the good-guy box. Apparently our incoming police officer got the shitty end of something tonight.

  “Erin, take the trauma consult,” Doctor Miriam Vonore droned at me, her maroon-framed reading glasses hanging off the edge of her narrow nose as always. I knew she didn’t like me; that much was obvious ever since I started my residency and Randy and I started flirting. She was always too busy wantonly smiling at her little pet Randy and scowling at me to be a decent mentor. I was a cheap little trollop in her eyes—something she made sure to punctuate whenever she could.

  She was shorter than I was, with thinning dirty-blonde hair cut in a bob. As if a slightly rounded fifty-two-year-old divorcee had a chance with a young hottie like Randy.

  The second Miriam was out of earshot, Sarah was up to no good. “Erin, take the trauma consult,” she parroted, mimicking Miriam’s nasally tones flawlessly.

  I couldn’t help but snicker, feeling internally grateful for a moment of humor. “One of these days she’s going to catch you doing that,” I chastised her quietly, making sure not to be overheard.

  Sarah grinned madly at me and swiped a loose lock of her dark brown hair over her ear. “Ah, who cares? Your incoming goes in exam room six.”

  Todd handed over a file as he hurried by. “Your incoming?”

  I nodded, putting all the bullshit behind me once again.

  “Patient is alert and stable. Bleeding is controlled with pressure dressing and ice,” Todd continued.

  I took my pen out, stifled another yawn, and noted the time in the file: 11:47 p.m.

  Sarah peered up from her computer. “Lab results on your patient in nine are up.”

  Finally. My current patient, a sixty-eight-year-old woman who came in complaining of hip pain after sustaining an in-home fall, was getting antsy. I entered my password into one of the terminals along the main corridor and checked the status of an open bed upstairs, avoiding the flickering lights from the arriving ambulance.

  Just as the two EMTs wheeled the patient through the double doors and down the main chute, shouts and obscenities started flying. It was so loud I couldn’t tell who was shouting at whom. I peered down the hall, instantly infuriated that a damn camera crew had stormed in right behind them.

  Either something monumentally horrendous had happened in the outside world or the local news channels were sinking to a new low: chasing ambulances. It was bad enough they were all over me when I got pulled over this morning, but now this?

  One of the EMTs tried to stop the cameraman from entering through the restricted entrance but the news crew was already upon the patient, invading his rights. Carl Tanners, one of our onsite security officers, came running so I followed him.

  I turned to one of the interns loitering nearby. “Call for additional security. Now.”

  I pinned the shorter blond male accompanying the cameraman with my angriest glare. Strange, they both looked familiar—especially the short one in the ball cap. And then the shock registered, casting that nervous warmth throughout my skin.

  As soon as I saw the face of the patient on the cot, everything dimmed. Firm lips, gorgeous face, incredible eyes staring back at me…

  Officer Trent, I think I breathed, though my mouth surely moved.

  “You,” he said, just as breathily. He appeared just as surprised by our unexpected reunion as I was.

  “Turn that camera off right now! You cannot be in here,” Carl yelled, trying to bring chaos to order. “Shut it down.”

  The fact that Adam had been injured snapped me back into the urgency of the moment. His left hand was bandaged like a catcher’s mitt.

  He tried to move but was strapped down to the transport cot. “Christ, Ritchie. We’re in a hospital. Give me a break.”

  As soon as we locked gazes again, something inexplicable came over me. It was instant and alarming—a potent mix of protectiveness and familiar ownership.

  The blond guy removed one headphone from his ear. “Sorry, Adam. We’re instructed to keep filming. You know it’s in your contract.”

  These men were irritating. He’d been hurt and I needed to get his care underway. “He goes into exam room six.” I pointed, needing the EMTs to wheel him away.

  Two men dressed identical to Adam joined in the fray with our hospital security, but the camera crew kept on insisting they had the right to keep filming.

  I was astonished and angered by their blatant disregard for hospital policy. “You two—what TV station are you with?” I blocked their view of Adam when they ignored my question. “I cannot believe you would have the audacity to film an injured police officer or any patient for that matter in my hospital.”

  The cameraman that answered to the name Ritchie took a step back, then returned to squinting his eye in the viewer of his camera. He looked to be in his mid twenties, lanky as hell, unkempt brown hair, wearing skinny jeans and an olive green winter parka.

  His partner, the shorter blond guy, moved his headset away from one ear. “We have full clearance to keep filming him, wherever he goes.”

  “Hey!” Ritchie pulled his face away from the camera. “You’re that woman that we—”

  “Ritchie!” Adam bellowed from down the hall, pegging him with an “I’ll kill you if you finish that sentence” glare while being wheeled away.

  “Henry says we’re supposed to keep rolling,” the short blond guy said.

  “I don’t think so.” The hall was filling with onlookers. I reached for the camera to push it away. “You are violating patient rights.”

  I felt his presence right before I felt his hand cross my stomach. One very pissed off cop slid me out of the way.

  “Turn that fucking thing off, now,” Adam commanded.

  Behind them, a huge wall of intimidating black man dressed head to toe in black police attire strolled in. I instantly recognized him too.

  “You two assholes are done here.” He palmed both of the camera crew by their shoulders and spun them, hauling them toward the ambulance bay doors.

  I stepped up to Adam’s side, knowing I had to calm him down and get him back into his room. Stress was making things worse. “Officer—”

  “Detective,” he corrected, pinning me with those fierce eyes again.

  “Detective,” I repeated, hoping he’d concentrate on me instead of the craziness. My years of dealing with the anxiety that accompanies medical emergencies kicked in. “Let’s get you squared away.” I hoped the quiver in my throat didn’t come out with my words, as it was hard to hide my nervousness.

  Adam sat onto the hospital bed. “Sorry, Doc.”

  I doubted Detective Hottie, with his spiky, short brown hair, perfectly aligned jaw, and wide shoulders ever allowed a moment of weakness show through. Still, I had to reassure him. “It’s okay. Let’s see what we’re working with.”

  Sarah, who, after getting an eyeful of my current patient, volunteered to be my triage nurse. She nudged Sherry out of the way and commandeered her portable computer.

  I pulled on a fresh pair of gloves.

  “I told them I was fine. It’s just a cut. I don’t need all of this. Some gauze and a few Band-Aids will fix it.”

  I snipped through the pressure packing on his hand to reveal one hell of a deep gash. “You’re going to need stitches, Detective. A simple Band-Aid isn’t going to fix this.”

  He stared me down for what felt like an eternity. Damn those dark eyes were gorgeo
us. “That bad, huh?”

  “Unfortunately, yes.”

  He tried to stifle his curse. “Do what you need to do then, Doc.” He rested back on the bed with a bit of defeat. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to grab you like that out there.”

  “It’s okay.” I hated that Sarah was monitoring our word exchange as if she were taking notes. “Thanks for making the camera guys go away.”

  His eyes fixed on mine. “I owed you that. Look, I’m really sorry about last ni—”

  I shook my head for him to stop and almost lunged to cover his mouth. Fortunately, he halted mid sentence.

  “Excuse me, sir. We need to get you logged in. Name?” Sarah interrupted, her voice dripping with sweetness. Had I not known she was already married, I would have said she was attempting to flirt with him.

  “Adam…” He cleared his throat. When I looked up at his face, he was watching me intently. “Adam Trent.”

  Sarah tapped a few keys. “Date of birth?”

  My mind registered him saying, “July twenty-fourth.” The year caused me to do quick math.

  Damn… thirty-two-years-old. Perfect age where he might consider settling down with one woman, if he wasn’t already.

  I tossed some of his bloodied wrapping into the biohazard bin. Why can’t I ever meet guys like this? There were a few single males floating around the building but the selection of good-looking ones that didn’t have girlfriends or boyfriends was very slim. Todd, one of our male nurses, was cute but he was also very gay and the newest selection of interns—well, let’s just say that butterflies failed to fly in their presence. Trying to fish in the hospital pond was a lost cause.

  I notice he had a formidable two-inch scar on his forearm. By the looks of it, this wasn’t his first tangle with a sharp object.

  “Mr. Trent, it appears you’re a repeat customer,” Sarah stated, confirming my suspicions.

  Our eyes locked again as I lifted his wounded left hand, cradling it between my body and arm to reposition him.

  He sucked in a quick breath and I immediately readjusted, worried that I’d hurt him somehow.

  “Sorry, but I need to see how deep it is.” I tried to be gentle. “I know it hurts.”

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