“Well, aren’t you smiley this morning?” she says as she follows me into the house.
I shed my coat and take hers. “I’m always in a good mood in the morning.” Nevertheless, I try to hide the evidence by biting back my smile. “That’s why they call me a morning person.”
She folds her arms and narrows her gaze. She’s in yoga pants and a long-sleeved T, her mascara is smeared under her eyes, and her hair is half in and half out of her sloppy bun. She looks more like she just woke from a bender in Vegas than like a nurse who worked a double. “I know this about you, but it’s worse this morning.” She wrinkles her nose as if there’s something truly offensive about a person being perky before nine a.m. “This is something more.” Her eyes go wide, and her jaw drops. “You’re sleeping with Dr. McBroody Pants!”
My cheeks flash hot. “Where did you get that idea?”
“You ho! I’ve lived here for two years, and the only guy who’s put a smile like that on my face was the one who was giving out free donuts at the mammogram clinic. God, I’m so jealous of you right now.”
Snorting, I beeline to the coffee pot, where I fill the biggest mug in the cabinet with the nectar of the gods. I take a long drink and smile before meeting my friend’s eyes. “I tried to resist him, but he’s pretty irresistible.”
The self-righteous grin falls from her face, and she shakes her head. “No.”
“Yeah. Sorry. He is.”
“You’re falling for him. You’re not supposed to fall for the rebound guy, Nic. You’re supposed to use him for sex.”
“I know! But he’s . . .” I bite my lip and think of his mouth on mine, the way his hand feels when it slides over my jaw and into my hair, the pressure of his fingers at the back of my neck. “He makes me melt, Teagan. Like, toe-curling, stomach-fluttering, ice-in-the-hot-sun melt. And he sees me.” I stare into my coffee. “I don’t think I’ve ever let myself be so real with a man before. But I don’t have to try to be anyone but myself to win his approval. He just wants me as I am.”
“You mean he wants Veronica,” she says softly. “Because that’s still who he thinks you are, right? Unless you’ve told him?”
My stomach knots in shame, and I glare at her. “Aren’t you the one who kept telling me to hook up with him?”
“Hook up. Not fall in love.” Her shoulders sag and she shakes her head. “I don’t want you getting hurt again, and sweetie, I’m sorry, but this has disaster written all over it.”
“I’m going to tell him. Just not yet. I promised his sister I wouldn’t say anything until after Christmas.”
“And what happens then, Nic? What happens after he spends Christmas with you and you tell the man you’ve fallen so hard for that you’ve been lying?”
Love born in a lie is THE WRONG KIND OF LOVE! I wish I’d never seen that note in Elena’s book. It haunts me. “I don’t know, Teagan.”
“Is everything okay, Dr. Jackson?” the postpartum nurse asks, her tone hesitant.
“Fine. Everything’s fine.” But it’s not.
I went home at lunch, and when I checked the mail, I found five letters addressed to Nic Maddox. All with preschool names on the return address label. The preschool addresses were from all over the country—from Seattle to Miami, with the closest in Indianapolis.
She’s looking for a job. She’s really going to leave.
I felt like I’d been flying high for four days, but when I pulled those letters from my mailbox, I crashed down hard.
“Good,” the nurse says, smiling. “I think someone wants to talk to you.” She points behind me.
“Dr. Jackson, may I speak with you privately for a moment?”
I slide the chart I was looking at back into the nurse’s station and turn to Dr. Weir. She nods to an empty patient room, then steps into it without waiting for my response. Fuck. My shit day is about to get shittier.
The nurse who’s sitting at the computer by me bites her lip and averts her eyes. That’s a small community hospital for you. Dr. Weir and I were sleeping together six months ago, and now the whole staff titters when we so much as speak to each other. They’re going to love it if we go in that room together.
Not only do I not want to speak with Kyrstie alone about anything other than our patients, I also don’t want to fire up the hospital rumor mill about what is or isn’t between us. Especially not while I’m getting closer to Nic. Who might be leaving. Who might have a job offer waiting for her.
I follow Kyrstie into the room. She’ll just make a scene if I decline.