Unfortunately for my quest, the receptionist shut me down cold.

“Yes, I would like to see Dr. Hewitt,” I told her with confidence.

“Do you have an appointment?” she asked with a friendly smile.

I shook my head. “No. But I’m a friend of his.”

The friendly smile slid off her face. There is no doubt their protocol required people to have an appointment to get precious minutes with the neurosurgeons here. “I’m sorry, but if you don’t have an appointment, you cannot see him.”

I’d expected as much. While she did promise to leave him a message, I seriously doubted it would make it into his hands. I also suspected he would ignore it, but it’s important I catch him face to face to get a serious answer to my questions.

I didn’t give up, though. I merely walked through the lobby and out the door, where I have been loitering in the hallway for going on almost two hours now. It is my hope I will catch Benjamin coming out on a break.

Leaning against the wall with one foot propped against it, I surf my phone and bide my time. Periodically, I push away from the wall and pace up and down the hallway. At one point, I risk a bathroom break, rushing back to my post so I don’t miss Benjamin.

My phone dings, and I look down to see a text from Jorie. What are you doing today?

For a moment, I consider being evasive with her. But since she and Walsh are extremely concerned about me and my relationship with Benjamin, I opt for the full truth. Stalking Benjamin at his office.

She texts back an emoji with wide, disbelieving eyes.

I type back to explain further. I just want to make sure he’s okay since he’s not returning my calls or texts.

With Jorie, I know I can always count on her for the hard truth. For honest advice. She’s the one to tell me when I’m being stupid or ridiculous. I sort of expect that from her, so I’m surprised when she merely replies, Good luck. Call me after you talk to him.

That makes me feel immensely better about my decision to come here. I have been second-guessing myself somewhat that maybe some people are just better off left alone. Unfortunately, I am a naturally empathetic person and my sleepless nights will continue until I can assure myself Benjamin will be okay.

“Elena?” It’s a man’s voice—clearly not Benjamin’s—and I snap my head to the left to see his partner, Brandon Aimes, walking toward me. He’s wearing a set of blue scrubs, carrying a few Manila medical files under his arm. I’m surprised he remembers my name. “What are you doing here?”

His tone is friendly enough, but his expression is wary. I wonder if Benjamin has said anything about standing me up last week.

Lifting my chin, I tell it straight. “Benjamin and I had a date on Friday, and he stood me up. He’s not been returning my calls or texts, and I am very worried about him. I just want to make sure he’s okay.”

“He’s actually not here,” Brandon replies as he comes to a stop before me.

I cock an eyebrow. “The receptionist made it seem like he was. She asked me if I had an appointment.”

“That’s what they’re trained to say. They’re also trained to never divulge where the doctors are. She would’ve tried to get you in to see another one of our doctors.”

I suppose that makes sense.

Brandon looks up and down the hall before turning back to me. He seems troubled about whether to say anything, but he eventually sighs and admits, “Look… he left work on Friday around lunchtime, skipping out on a surgery he had scheduled. I was able to cover it for him, but it was completely unlike him to do something like that. Today, he called out again, but he assured me he would be back tomorrow.”

I don’t know what to make of that. It hits me with a harsh clarity I simply don’t know Benjamin well enough to know whether his behavior is unusual or worrisome.

“Well,” I drawl hesitantly. “I really just wanted to make sure he was okay. Since you’ve heard from him, I guess I’ve been assured of that. Thanks.”

I am feeling extremely dissatisfied with what I’ve learned, but I don’t feel like I have any choice but to walk away. My goal was to make sure Benjamin was physically okay. Brandon has heard from him, and it appears Benjamin is. I give him a smile and pivot on my foot, heading toward the bank of elevators.

I don’t make it three steps before he calls after me, “Elena… wait a minute.”

I spin to face him.

“I’m not sure he’s okay,” Brandon admits, and I take a few steps toward him. “He’s probably going to kill me for this, and I have no clue of knowing if you’re legit or a crazy stalker woman, but I’ll take my chances.”

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