Page 131 of We Were Once

“Your eyes. They change with the hour of day, keep your mood, and hide the words you never say.” He shifts, reaching for protection. Wrapping himself, he continues, “I try to read your emotions, but you’re protected by grassy green meadows that lead to your secrets.”

I lift and then slide down as our bodies reconnect as one soul again, a foundation built of pain from the past and hope for the future.

* * *

As I stand on the sidewalk outside the hospital, my lips are swollen, and my chin suffers from scruff burn. He holds me with one arm and an overnight bag for me in the other hand. We’ve haven’t stopped kissing, but I know I need to pull myself away and go in. “I have to go, or I’m going to be late.”

“You’re already late.”

I steal one more kiss and then push myself away, hating that I have to leave him after the most perfect twenty-four hours of my life. It would feel like a dream if I couldn’t feel our reunion in every twist of my body, the blissful ache, and thrill still running through my veins. I was no longer surviving. I was alive for the first time in six years. The sliding hospital doors keep opening and closing because of my hesitation to walk away from the man who made my heart shift into gear.

Joshua says, “Get going, baby. I’ll see you later.”

I try for sexy, and say, “I’ll be there, waiting naked in your bed.” But a lump forms in my throat from having to part ways. I should be stronger than this—light and carefree—but I’m heavy with emotions from the past night. Trusting us after all this time is terrifying. He comes to me, kisses my forehead, and whispers, “It’s going to be all right.”

“I know.” Even scared, I do. He let Dwayne Evans stay at my apartment with Frankie. If that’s not a sign of intent, I don’t know what is. That man has loved that tree since he was thirteen. I’m still sad to leave Joshua, though, but we’re not as fragile as we used to be.

He says, “It’s just us getting used to this again. I . . .”

When I peer up at him, I ask, “You what?”

“I . . . I’ll see you after work.” His hand runs over the top of his hair.

I know that’s not what he was going to say, but I understand the struggle. I nod, turning to leave before dumping an I love you on him like we’re allowed to say those things. Natural or habit from being around him, those three words float around my mouth like they belong there. It’s too soon, even if I see them reflected in his eyes right back at me.

When I drag myself inside, Julie’s leaning on the check-in desk. “Ummm . . . Is that the room five, coffee shop guy?”

That’s the delivery guy who brought me food one night and stole my heart a week later. Since that’s a lot of information to dump on her all at once and because I’m fifteen minutes late, I say, “Yes, but I need to get to my rotation. I’ll fill you in later.”

“My break is at ten,” she calls when I pass.

Laughing, I’m feeling too giddy to keep this euphoria inside. To share the magic between him and I with someone else, even when scared, lights me up. “I’ll go ahead and schedule mine for then.”

I hear her clapping excitedly behind me. I’m just about to push through the locker room when the chief of staff calls my name. I turn back to see her leaning out of her office. “Can you spare a moment before you start your rotations, Dr. Fox?”

“Of course, Dr. Willick.” I follow her into her office. Closing the door behind me, she says, “Have a seat.”

I sit when she returns to her leather chair and sits down with purpose. She steeples her fingers with a smile I can only interpret as sympathetic. I’m not sure what to think of that, so my foot starts tapping nervously. “I know I was late today, but I swear it’s the first time—”

“That’s not what this is about, Dr. Fox. That happens.” She rests her forearms on the desk; her eyes are kind and her body language approachable.

Despite that, I don’t like beating around the bush, and my foot bounces faster.

“What did you want to see me about?”

“Your father is a highly respected neurosurgeon. World-renowned, in fact.” She’s usually much more direct, my father being an unwelcome detour. “The bar for your career must have been set quite high.”

As discomfort threads through me, I press my hand to my knee to still it. “Are you asking me?”

There’s that sympathetic smile again. She replies, “No. I’ll get to the point because I know you have a busy night ahead. As much as I’ve enjoyed working with you these past three years, we’ve reviewed your application and decided not to bring you on. With several doctors returning from maternity leave and another from a sabbatical in South America, we aren’t prepared to offer a full-time position to any doctors from the residency program at this time.”

Tags: S.L. Scott Romance