“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” I scramble in the darkness, searching for the panties he ripped from my wanton and widespread legs not twenty minutes ago. “Damnit, damnit!”
“You kiss your mother with that mouth.” I don’t have to look up to see that fucking smug and sinfully sexy smile spread across his gorgeous lips. I can hear it in his deep and irritatingly obnoxious tone. I wasn’t going to do this…again. I curse my slutty self. Not with him, not at work, and definitely not in the supply cupboard. But, in my defence, it’s been a really long time, and he is…well, he is Joel.
“Fuck off!” I growl as I find the discarded, tattered and now completely useless garment. Fantastic. I haul myself upright and brush the sex-creased wrinkles from my scrubs. My ‘fucked like animals’ hairstyle may take a little more to remedy.
“Ah, baby, don’t be like that.” His strong arm slides around the nip in my waist, and he pulls me against his solid frame. Really solid, damn…already? I suck back a whimper and pinch my eyes shut so I don’t have to see the telltale knowledge flashing in his hazel eyes. His dark brow is raised only slightly, but it’s not with confusion. He’s waiting to see if I’m good to go for round two. He knows exactly what he does to me, and because of that, I shouldn’t have fucking gone for round one. I promised myself I wouldn’t. I should know better…I do know better. I push out of his hold, and he gives a carefree shrug that pinches hard in my chest. Of course, this doesn’t matter to him. I didn’t matter enough back then; why the fuck would I matter now? I grit my teeth and flash my brightest smile. It doesn’t reach my eyes, but it’s the best I have.
“Like what, Joel?” I keep my tone level, failing at indifference, but at least it’s not whiny.
“You could at least give me a genuine smile. I put some of my best work in there. I do believe you came three times to my one.” His teeth drag slowly over his bottom lip, and I have to force that whimper back down my throat.
“I wasn’t counting.” That’s a lie. God, why does he have to be so good at that? My old faithful vibrator is a very poor cousin in comparison, and that’s connected to the national grid for Christ’s sake.
“Don’t I deserve a little TLC?” he croons, and I snort, my tone thick with condescension.
“If I gave you TLC, Joel, you’d be leaving one of those cartoon outlines in the door from the high speed get away. Besides don’t you get enough fawning from your army of skanky interns?” I quip.
“I do…but it’s not the same; you’re special.” He tips his head, his soft smile almost convincing, almost.
“You’re so full of shit,” I snap, but it’s lost a little fire.
“You’re right. I couldn’t even keep a straight face.” He smirks and shrugs again.
“Riiight, okay then. This has been fun; now if you’ll excuse me?” I internally wince at the hit from his indifference, but what did I really expect? It’s been a roller coaster of crushingly cold distance interspersed with bouts of raging incendiary heat since he returned.
“Don’t beat yourself up, we both needed this. Just scratching an itch, baby.” He ruffles my hair, like it needed a little more mess added to it.
“It’s your itches that worry me, Joel.” I step over the used condom and at least take comfort that I do learn some lessons, even if I learn them the hard way.
“Needs have to be met, especially in our game. This is a major stress relief, baby,” he argues, and I have to stop myself from gaping.
“Glad to be of service.” I pinch my lips tight and offer a thin smile.
“As am I, but don’t be a bitch about it, Regan. You could have anyone of those guys out there that keep asking you out, but for whatever reason you just bottle it all up until you—”
“Fuck a complete prick.” I snap my interruption, not bothering to hide my harsh and accusatory tone,
“Don’t, you’ll make me blush.” He winks and shucks his coat back on over his broad shoulders.
“Oh my god,” I mouth more to myself.
I storm out of the cupboard, and am so thankful it’s the start of the night shift and the lights in the hallway have been dimmed. No one is around, and I can do my walk of shame undetected. I scurry as quickly as I can toward the staff toilets. My rubber shoes do not make my journey as stealthy as I hoped but I do get to the safety of the ladies without encountering a single soul. I’m such an idiot.
My shift was over. I was nearly home safe, but no.
I don’t try to be professional; I am professional, and I would never step over that line. I have too much to lose. But, like I said, it’s been a long time, and when Joel Lincoln Prescott III sets his sights on you, you’d have to be made of stone to resist. To be fair to me, I have resisted, and succumbed, and resisted and… Well, you get the idea.
He was appointed Head of Paediatrics last year, but I’ve known him a little longer. He came crashing through the ward doors like he crashed into my life seven years ago. Dirty blond hair, just dipping long enough at the front to cover his thick brow but not hide his mesmerising hazel and gold-flecked eyes. Six foot two, and under that crisp white shirt and doctor’s coat, he is built like fucking Adonis. Unfortunately, he knows this, and there is not a humble bone in his conceited, obnoxious, and utterly charming body.
Today was a particular torture reserved for only the most wicked of people. I must have been particularly bad in a previous life to have to endure a litany of flirtatious comments, teasing touches, and incendiary glances that had me extremely thankful for my shapeless uniform, which mostly hid all the squeezing and squirming my lower body was enduring. I caved, and what’s worse, he knew I would, and I couldn’t hate myself anymore for it. Not even the mind-blowing orgasms he drew from my desperate body improved my opinion of me; however, I am grateful for one thing: he never tells; this is our secret.
I straighten myself and scrape my long glossy hair back into a neat and sensible bun. My lips are still a little swollen, and I indulge in dragging my tongue over them, savouring the taste of him, which lingers; it’s faint, but it’s there. My fingertips rest on my mouth, and I am surprised when I look at my reflection and see that I’m smiling. It feels strange and good at the same time, natural, and that surprises me too. There is really only one thing in my world that makes me smile like this, and it hasn’t been him for a very long time.
It’s her, my little miracle…Ruby. That thought alone has my smile spreading wider and brighter, eclipsing its Joel-induced predecessor. I check my watch. She’ll be tucked up now, if Bobbie managed to get her to sleep at all. Christmas Eve for a five-year-old is the stuff of nightmares for any babysitter, but I’m hoping she was successful. I have all her presents stuffed in the back seat of my car, wrapped and ready to place under our pathetic excuse of a tree. It was all I could afford, and Ruby thinks it’s the bollocks, so that’s all that matters. She didn’t use those exact words; fortunately, she doesn’t have her mother’s potty mouth…yet.
I collect my coat, keys, and bag from the staff room and head home. My feet freeze at the top of the stairwell, as I see Joel’s motorcycle helmet disappear into the supply cupboard. I wish it was daytime because, with the daytime, the ward is loud and manic. Now, at this time, it’s so quiet, too quiet. There is no mistaking that light giggle and deep growl of Joel telling someone else ‘you’re special’ just as the door suctions shut. That brief sound is all I can hear ringing in my ears and making my damn nose tingle as I find my feet running down the stairwell.
It’s bitterly cold when I hit the pavement outside the hospital, the icy wind scours the exposed skin on my face, and my breath freezes on my lips. I wrap the scarf in another loop around my neck and tug my hat down low. The tears don’t materialise immediately; still, I couldn’t feel any worse as I walk back to my car.
You’re a fucking idiot, Regan
“Hey, wait up!” The distant voice is high pitched and breathless. I turn to see a rosy-cheeked and worried-looking Nora racing toward me. “Regan, are you okay?” I use my shoulder to dab the trickle of tears dry that I’m just about to blame on the freezing wind when Nora gives me the knowing head tilt. “I saw him.”
“Him? Who him?” I regret my attempt at diversion as soon as her lips downturn with disappointment. Everyone close to me knows about my history with Joel, the break-up, the aftermath, and the non-existent reunion when he returned. For a second, I panic that she saw him with me, but I hold my impassive expression until I know for sure what I am going to have to comment on or, worse, explain.
“Joel just came out of the supply cupboard with that new receptionist.”
“He was quick,” I mutter, and she looks curiously at me for an explanation. “I saw him go in there not two minutes ago,” I clarify.
“Maybe he changed his mind, or maybe he couldn’t get it up.” She wrinkles her nose and snorts a distasteful laugh.
“Not sure what that has to do with me, Nora.” I shiver from the cold creeping into my bones even if a warm ember glows in the pit of my stomach with the thought of the first suggestion. Stop it, Regan, you’re still a fucking idiot for going there.
“Nothing, I mean, sorry. I just know how you felt about him, and, honestly, he’s been a complete fucking dick since he came to work here. A different girl every week if not every day, and I’ve never seen him with the same girl twice,” she rants, and I know it’s true, except for me, that is.
“Again, nothing to do with me. We’re colleagues. End of.”
“Colleagues with history and serious fucking heat,” she scoffs.
“I know there’s nothing going on now, but damn, when he looks at you, sparks fly. Don’t tell me you don’t feel that?”
“I-I… It doesn’t matter what I feel, or in the case of Joel, what I do not feel. He made his bed, and I don’t sleep in it anymore.”
“Good, because you’d probably catch something.”
“Oh, if there’s one thing I do remember about Joel, he always wraps before he taps.” I keep my intonation light, even if a little more gossipy than I intended.
“I know he’s this Adonis that all the girls drool over, and I know I’m hardly a judge, but I just don’t get what you ever saw in him.”
“He wasn’t always like that,” I reply with utmost honestly. I don’t know what changed him, but he isn’t the same man I loved, not by a long fucking way. I just need my lack of judgment, dubious morals, and unchecked wantonness to fall in line with my overwhelming sense of regret and shame after, to prevent any further incidents with Joel.
“An asshole, you mean.”
“Yeah, he wasn’t always an asshole.” I mean it; only her wide blue eyes and the wry look on her smooth pixie features makes me think she remains unconvinced. To Nora, men are more than a different gender; they are more akin to an alien species.
“If you say so. Are you sure you’re all right? You need me to walk you to your car?”
“Thanks, Nora, but it’s just ’round the corner. I’m good. Go home to Scarlet, and I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon.”
“Can’t wait, bye!” She pulls me in for a bear of a hug, gives a manic little wave, and hurries off in the opposite direction.
I park a fair walk from the main building where the streets are dimly lit and the neighbourhood is not so savoury; however, the parking is free. I always have my keys clenched in one fist and the fingers crossed in the other hand.
I round the corner, but I am still at the end of the street, and already, I can see something isn’t quite right. The freshly fallen snow has been cleared to a high bank leaving a clear and narrow walkway between the derelict building and the road. Even from this distance, I know it’s not flakes of ice sparkling on the sidewalk beside my beaten up Honda, and the flickering street lamp is no longer reflected on all the windows like it should be.
“No, no, no,” I whisper into the thick woollen material covering my mouth. My feet pick up their pace, slowing as I near, and the scene of Christmas carnage sinks in. The window on the passenger side is smashed. Shreds of ripped Christmas paper are trampled into the wet ground. The car door is open, hanging on its hinge and almost closed. I pull it open, even though I can already see the blanket that was hiding all of Ruby’s presents has been thrown into the footwell. A rage builds in the pit of my tummy, which is quickly overtaken with a sudden and overwhelming surge of tears of defeat and devastation. “No…no,” I cry to no one, and the tears fill and fall like a burst floodgate. I crumple to the ground, my knees crunch, and the glass bites into my skin, but I don’t feel it.
All the presents…gone.
“Why the fuck did you park this piece of shit here? I thought you were smart.” The deep husky voice brings me back with a start, and I snap my head up and have to tip back to see his eyes scowling at me, that damn helmet in his hand.
“Fuck off and die, Joel!” I bite out, but it morphs into a pathetic sob of desperation, because I know I’m being more than a little harsh. This isn’t his fault. I’m running on empty, and I’m clean out of common courtesy.
“No,” he retorts with gravel-toned seriousness that makes the hairs on my neck prickle to life. He picks me up from my crumpled heap, lifting me by my shoulders and grabbing my bag from the ground. He leans down once more, I assume to pick up some spillage from my bag, and I squeal with surprise when he scoops me effortlessly into his arms. I’m in too much shock to object. He begins to stride away from my car when I come to my senses.
“Joel put me down. I have to call the AA”
“This is Chicago, Regan, it’s Triple A over here, how long have you lived in the States now? Do you even remember living on that tiny island?”
“Britain isn’t tiny, and whatever. I still need to call them.”
“It’s freezing out here, and they’ll take at least an hour, maybe more, if they come at all this close to Christmas.”
“No, I have to get home.” I start to struggle, and like a snake with its prey, his arms constrict so tightly I feel my bones creak.
“Your knees are cut to shit, Regan, and I know you think I’m an asshole, but I’m not about to leave you bleeding on the sidewalk,” he quips, and I snort out a flat and knowing laugh.
“I don’t think you’re an asshole.” I look up as he looks down, his soft lips carving a perfectly smug smile that I am happy to wipe clean off his stupidity handsome face. “I know you’re an asshole, a certified, gold medal, rock solid asshole.”
“Fine, I’m an asshole and you’re coming with me.”
I let out a resigned and heavy sigh, which I feel originate deep in my belly. It’s not like it’s the worst offer I’ve had, and, if nothing else, heading into the Emergency Room with a Head of Paediatrics means I will jump the queue and might just get home before morning.
“Um, Joel, you’ve missed the hospital entrance.” I strain to twist my head in the direction of the turning we should’ve taken.
“Have I? Well, now I can see why you’re the youngest nurse to lead the neonatal team on the peds unit.” His tone is thick with sarcasm.
“Cute.” I try to wriggle to free myself, but his arms are like a vice around my body, the heat from him and the way his stony muscles mould against me, even through his leathers, is all kinds of distracting.
“I’m not taking you there, unless you want tongues wagging as to why I’m carrying you in my arms with you looking all hot and sexy, with swollen lips and just-fucked hair,” he argues, and I comically open and close my mouth without making a sound as his words sink in.
“I… No. I don’t want that.” I admit after only a second of reflection. This sordid thing we share is only bearable because no one knows.
“Right, so shush and let me handle this, and stop wriggling, you’re making me hard.” He winks and smirks like the devil himself has taken the reins, and I close my eyes and wonder if this night could actually get any worse.
Yes is the answer, in case you were wondering.