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My heart races thinking about it…the possibilities, the lives it would affect.
His brow arches with interest. “Think you’ll be able to give up this cushy life if the committee picks you?”
“I’ll manage,” I reply sarcastically.
We continue like that for a little while, taking the toy basketball game more seriously than we should, but we get like that with each other. I’m concentrating so hard on landing the perfect shot that I don’t really pay attention as he starts describing the girl he just picked up at the bar across the street.
“—total babe. So you see, it wasn’t all bad. I’m actually glad you didn’t show. She’s sweet. Blonde, just like I prefer. A little short, but on her, it works. She put her name in my phone as Bailey, Girl from the Bar, like I wouldn’t remember her.”
I jerk forward, throw, and end up missing the net by a good two feet as I turn to face him. “Wait—what’d you say she looked like again?”
He frowns, confused by my sudden interest.
“Blonde, perky, freckles.” He shrugs. “Not your type, don’t worry.”
I grunt. “Yeah, you’d be correct in assessing that she’s not my type considering she works for me as of this morning.”
“No way. Not this girl.”
I roll my eyes. “Were her eyes a really light brown? Almost hazel?”
“I don’t know. The bar was hazy.”
“Did she have high cheekbones? Dimples when she smiled?”
“Shit. Bailey? Blonde, happy-go-lucky Bailey works for you? What does she do? Is she a nurse?”
“She’s my surgical assistant.”
He cracks up. Eyes-closed, knee-slapped levels of laughter spill out of him.
“No,” he says, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes. “No fucking way.”
I thrust the ball against his chest. “Are you going to take your shot or what?”
He tosses the basketball over the arm of the couch with total disregard for where it’ll end up. It pings off the wall, collides with my chair, and makes a final sad descent beside my trashcan. “Tell me exactly how that came to be because the last time I heard from you, you didn’t have a surgical assistant. According to you, no one could keep up.”
“Dr. Lopez foisted her onto me.”
He shakes his head and steps closer, pressing his hand against my chest. “No, no, no. Don’t bullshit me. You hired her.”
I shrug and try to move around him but he blocks my path. I let him. I’ve got a few inches on him. I could easily go around, but I don’t want to make this seem like it’s more than it is, because in fact, it’s nothing. My little brother, the golden boy, tried to pick up Bailey. Big deal.
“She was in the right place at the right time. I was out a surgical assistant and she was out a surgeon. It works.”
A slow, sly smile unravels across his face, and I have the sudden urge to hurt him.
“Well, will it be awkward for you when we start dating?”
I step back, brows furrowed as my annoyance morphs into something a little more sinister. “Dating? What do you mean? Didn’t you just meet her five minutes ago?”
He shrugs and moves away. Suddenly he’s a sly punk running his hand along my desk, touching things that don’t belong to him. “Yeah, but we hit it off. There was this instant connection. You get it. You probably feel the same way when you get a new medical device, this sort of excitement down in your loins.”
His eyebrows are wagging suggestively.
“That’s really funny, Coop,” I tease, reaching out for his shoulder and squeezing it a little too tight. “I wonder if that doctor up in Cincinnati would be put off by a black eye?”
His brows shoot up. “Black eye?” His tone is feigned innocence. “What? I thought we were just discussing my new lady friend and now suddenly you’re threatening bodily harm. This just isn’t like you, Matthew.”
He never calls me Matthew. He thinks he’s onto something. It’ll be awkward to have to explain to my parents that I accidentally murdered their favorite son.
“I’m warning you,” I say menacingly. “Drop it.”
“Drop what, exactly? You’ll have to be specific since I’m clearly confused.”
I let go of his shoulder and round my desk, starting to straighten up my shit so I can get the hell out of here. “You’re doing this because you want to rile me up. You want to punish me for making you sit at that bar. Well, it’s done. You did it. Now leave her out of it.”
He laughs and shakes his head. “No, actually that’s not it at all. I met a beautiful woman tonight and she gave me her number. I told you about it and instead of being happy for me, you went apeshit. Kind of interesting, don’t you think? Would you care if I dated Patricia?”
I level him with a Don’t fuck with me glare.
“You’re right.” He nods. “She’s too good for me. What about Kendra?”
“Drop it, Coop.”
“No, I need to know—do you not want me dating any of your employees or do you not want me dating Bailey?”
“You’re being an asshole. Drop it.”
He holds up his hands in surrender. “You’re right. Fine. Lesson learned: anything having to do with Bailey, I’ll keep to myself.”
I don’t let Cooper’s little game get to me. He’s my younger brother. He was put on this earth to torment me. He thinks he’s really got a good thing going, but honestly, it’s not much. Date Bailey. I don’t care.
He texts me the next day with a screenshot of their conversation.
Cooper: Hey! This is Cooper.
Cooper: Oh, let me clarify: the guy from the bar, not your friend’s dog.
Bailey: Ha! I was confused there for a second…thanks for clarifying. How are you?
Cooper: Good, just landed in Cincinnati for work. It’s cold AF here.
Then he sent a stupid-ass selfie of him standing outside with his hood pulled up and his teeth chattering. She replied a few hours later.
Bailey: Oh my gosh! You poor thing.
Cooper seemed to think that was promising.
Aw she feels sorry for me. ;) was his exact text to me.
My response: Apparently not considering how long it took her to reply to you. Odd since she doesn’t work on Tuesdays. What was her excuse?
Cooper: Maybe she just isn’t a slave to her phone like the rest of society…
I didn’t reply, opting instead to get back to work, but he texted again.
Cooper: Just to be clear, of the two of us, I know way more about women than you do.
Matt: All right.
Cooper: I’ve had three successful long-term relationships. You’ve had one divorce.
My short replies must have been pissing him off because then he replied: In fact, I really feel like Bailey and I will hit it off. I’m going to ask her out on a date when I get back from Cincinnati.
I didn’t reply.
The following morning, I have my second surgery scheduled with Bailey. It’s up on the board for 8:00 AM, but when I arrive at six, she’s already there, leaning against the wall outside my office with a thermos of coffee in one hand and a Tupperware container in the other. I glance back and forth past my door, wondering if she’s confused.
“Are you waiting for me?” I ask once I’m in earshot.
She jerks forward and nods, her demeanor shifting from relaxed to professional just like that. “Yes. Hi. Good morning.”
Her cheeks are flushed, nearly the same shade as her lips. Her jacket is still zipped up to her neck. I wonder where she parked to get that cold on her way into the hospital. Then the thought dissipates as the distinct aroma of baked goods distracts me. My mouth waters like I’m one of Pavlov’s dogs as I come to stand in front of her.
My key is in hand, ready to be used.
She doesn’t move. Her eyes scan up across my suit jacket, over my chest and neck, and then higher until her light brown eyes meet mine. She has to tip her head back quite a bit to meet my eyes, and maybe I was inspecting her as much as she was inspecting me because she asks, “Are you waiting for something?” and I swear her voice is a little breathy.