“Claire, wait,” I say, but she disappears back into the Hope Center, and once again I’m left feeling like one huge, useless dumb fuck.9ClaireWhat the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I control my libido around that man? I need to focus on work again. I’ve spent my entire adult life dedicating myself to school and becoming the best doctor I can possibly be. My job means the world to me. I’ve all but given up on the idea of marriage and children. So why is it whenever AJ is around my loins seem to catch fire? It’s like being a dumb hormonal teenager all over again. Not only that, though. He’s somehow sneakily crawled under my skin to where it’s not just sex I think about when I’m with him. I can easily picture myself waking up in his arms every morning, massaging his legs and back when he’s sore after a game or a long day of training. I’ve even caught myself thinking about what our children might look like and how the furniture in my apartment would make his house warmer. I’m losing my mind!

The problem is, my job at the Hope Center doesn’t seem to be as much of a time-suck as the rest of my jobs in the past have been. Most of the places I’ve worked have been under funded and understaffed. AJ has made it to where none of those things are a problem. I guess I have to take some of the credit too because I am damn good at running this clinic. Even those who resented the supposed way I came into the job, now admit that I’m very good at what I do. My credentials speak for themselves and so does the state of the clinic. It’s running like a well-oiled machine and that’s because of me. The staff has job security because of me. They get to go home to their families at a reasonable time and still make a great living wage because of me. If it were any other clinic or ER, that wouldn’t be the case and they know it.

Aside from that, the quality of care at the clinic is top notch. Every suggestion I’ve made to the board to improve the care we provide to our patients has been funded. We’d been working with a single room for x-rays, and I realized an additional room would cut waiting times significantly. By next month we’ll have the additional machinery. I’ve even had calls from other clinics asking me if they could come tour and take me out to lunch so they could pick my brain.

And because of how well I’m doing and how well AJ has done, not only am I making a great living, I also have more time on my hands and normal, human hours. I guess we make a good team in that sense. Working normal hours leaves me with too much time to think about other things. I’ve never been good with sitting with my own thoughts. I need to find a hobby.

I sit outside of the Hope Center, looking up at the building that has brought so much good to this city. A great man built it in my honor, a man who has been nothing but kind to me despite my steady, and not always kind, rejections. The same man who continues his ham-fisted attempts at wooing me. And the same man who makes my body come alive in a way that I’ve never experienced with anyone else.

I scrub my hands over my face. I need to get my head clear.

I go back inside the Hope Center and find Barbara, my counterpart on the evening shift. Barbara is a grandmotherly type with a sweet smile and an ever sweeter disposition. She’s one of the only people in charge who didn’t sneer at me or judge me when she heard I was engaged to our main funder. I wanted to hire her even though there were protests from others because of her age. Because ageism is illegal, they wanted to make excuses as to why we wouldn’t hire her, but her age and experience make her an asset and so I insisted. Now everyone is glad I held my ground. Barbara is one of the best employees we have.

“Hi Barb. Would you mind letting the floor supervisors know in the morning report that I plan to take some time off tomorrow?”

She looks worried. “Is everything all right? You never take time off.”

“Yeah, I think I just need a little me-time.”

“Of course, hon. Don’t you worry about a thing. I’ll take care of it. Are you sure you don’t need two days? You’ve worked hard and you deserve it. There are plenty of bodies to cover it without even having to dip into the overtime bucket.”

Tags: Penny Wylder Romance
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