“I’ve got it,” she assured him. “Thanks anyway.”

Ignore him and maybe he’ll go away. Not likely, but maybe.


“That box is bigger than you are.”

The sturdy box was more bulky than heavy. Inside were expired medical supplies the hospital couldn’t use. Carly had gotten clearance from upper management to take the expired supplies home with her. No one at the hospital knew about her mother, but they did know she sat with someone on her days off work.

There might not be a thing she could use. But Carly would go through the box, pull out what she could use, and take the rest to a free health clinic for the uninsured that could hopefully make use of the items.

“You look like it’s all you can do to keep steady. Quit being stubborn and let me help you, Carly,” Stone insisted, his voice sounding off a little.

He had a point. Plus, Carly’s fingers ached from gripping the box so hard and she was curious why his voice wavered. “Fine.”

He took the box from her with an ease indicating it weighed no more than a feather, then beamed as if he’d done something amazingly chivalrous. Whatever had caused the waver, he was all smiles now.

“Lead the way.”

As in to her car.

She didn’t want Stone to see her reliable, but old sedan. Whereas most people didn’t notice the little details in Carly’s life that hinted things might not be fairy tales and roses, that sharp mind of his would question things she didn’t want questioned.

She didn’t want him making her question things.

Pushing the hospital door open and holding it for him, she sighed. “Of all the people who offered to help, it would have to be you.”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you didn’t like me.”

“I don’t know you well enough to like or dislike you,” she said as she made sure the hospital door completely closed. “I only know you from the hospital and what little interaction we’ve had here.”

“I keep trying to correct that.”

“You want me to know you well enough to dislike you?” She pretended to misunderstand in hopes of redirecting the conversation. Besides, he deserved a little taking down.

Rather than look offended, he laughed. “I’m hoping you’ll swing the other way and like me.”

Fighting a smile, she narrowed her gaze at him. “But you’re admitting there is a distinct possibility I won’t?”

“It’s not been a big problem, but you wouldn’t be the first.” He cut his eyes toward her. “For the record, I’d prefer you like me.”

“Noted,” she said, keeping a step ahead of him as they crossed the employee parking lot.

“Go to dinner with me, Carly.”

He was asking her again. How could something be so unbelievably dreamy and such a nightmare at the same time?

“I can’t.” Part of her wanted to. Part of her wanted to grab her box and run.

Despite how she’d hightailed it from him earlier, she didn’t run from her problems. She dealt with them head on and chin up.

Just as she had with Rosalyn and the nurse’s aide’s teasing questions about Stone.

“Because?” he prompted.

Because she had to relieve Joyce. The retired nurse was wonderful, never complained if Carly worked overtime, but, otherwise, Carly always came straight home.

“Are you involved with a married man?”

Almost tripping, eyes wide, Carly spun toward Stone. “What? Are you crazy? Of course not. What would make you think that?”

His gaze, not so twinkly at the moment, stared into her eyes. “No one knows anything about your private life, yet you say you’re busy.”

She glared for real. “Because I’m not interested in you that means I must be sneaking around with a married man?” She rolled her eyes. “Get over yourself, Dr. Parker.”

He winced. “That’s not what I meant.”

“It’s what you implied and I don’t appreciate it.” Was that what he’d taken away from the short bits of time they’d spent together? That she was a woman who would mess around with a man who’d vowed himself to another woman?

“I’m sorry. That’s not what I meant to imply.”

Hanging onto her anger proved difficult when his apology was full of sincerity. Frustrated with herself, she put her hands on her hips. “Then say what you mean.”

He shifted the box. “Regardless of what I say, I upset you.”

“You should take the hint and not say anything, then.”

“What’s the fun in that?”

“What’s the fun in upsetting me?” she tossed back and took off toward her car in a fast walk.

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