- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
“Okay, yes, that mistake delayed your surgery today, but usually with Bailey by your side, you drastically cut down on your procedure times.”
“So today aside, she’s the best assistant you’ve had. Please don’t go hard on her.”
“What do you think I’m going to do? Fire her?”
Her eyes widen in fear. “Please don’t. She makes my job easier too. I’m not run ragged anymore.”
I sigh and brush past her. “Thank you for the insight, Kendra, but Bailey isn’t going anywhere. I assure you. Have a good weekend.”
As I work through some emails at my desk, I’m annoyed to find the cold front the newscasters were droning on about this morning finally makes an appearance. It’s raining cats and dogs, which means Friday after-work traffic will be more hellish than usual. I’ll have to take my paperwork and finish it at home so I can pick up my suit in time.
I use my personal bathroom to change out of my scrubs, grab my coat, and gather the files I want to take with me. The elevator is crowded, but everyone gives me a healthy berth—one perk of being universally disliked is I never have people encroaching on my personal space.
The elevator doors slide open and I’m about to take a sharp left toward the parking garage when I spot Bailey standing just inside the front entrance to our building with her arms wrapped around her middle. She changed out of her scrubs and she’s wearing jeans and that same pink, puffy coat that completely drowns her. I wonder if she’s waiting for someone to pick her up. Why else would she be hovering near the front door? Then she wipes furiously at her cheek and I realize she’s crying.
I eye the parking garage door. I’m seconds away from freedom.
I glance back at her in time to see her shake her head at her phone, stuff it in her pocket, and then reach down for her backpack like she’s about to march right out the front door. Except, there are no cars out front, just sheets of rain and rumbling, dark skies.
“Bailey,” I say, my voice carrying easily across the marble floor. “Wait.”
She turns back and rolls her eyes, clearly annoyed to see me coming her way. She quickly wipes at her cheeks then holds up her hand to wave me off. “I’m off the clock. I don’t want to talk to you right now. If you want to chew me out for what happened back there, you’ll have to do it on Monday. I’m going home.”
Her pretty brown eyes, full of tears, narrow up at me in confusion. “How what?”
“How are you getting home? Did you park on the street or something?”
Her brows relax as she realizes I’m not about to scold her. “Oh.” She turns to the window. “I’m going to catch the bus.” The bus? “The stop is just down the street a little bit.”
“Don’t you have a car?”
She steels her spine. “No. I don’t.”
I’ll have to look into what we’re paying her—surely she should have no problem affording a car to get her to and from work.
“Okay, well then what about an Uber or something?”
Her tone doesn’t lighten as she replies, “I usually take the bus. It’s fine.”
I look for an umbrella and frown when I see her hands are empty. “You’re going to get drenched and it’s freezing out there.”
She laughs and starts to step back. “It’s not your concern. Don’t worry about me.”
Yes, well unfortunately, I do worry about her. For the last three weeks, all I’ve done is worry about her.
Cooper is to blame. He fuels my annoyance on a daily basis, updating me about their texts and bragging to me about how their relationship is developing. Relationship—I find that laughable. They haven’t gone on a date. They haven’t even spoken on the phone. If the metric for a “relationship” lies solely in the number of text messages exchanged then as of this week, I’m in a relationship with my tailor, my UberEats delivery guy, and my housekeeper. I’ve got my hands fucking full.
“Well I’m not going to let you wait out at the bus stop in this weather. C’mon, I’ll drive you.”
Her soft feminine laugh echoes around the lobby.
“Thank you, but I’d rather walk.”
What she really means is, Thank you, but I’d rather die.
“It’s really not a request. You’re no good to me if you have to call in sick on Monday because you caught pneumonia.”
Her gaze sheens with a new layer of hatred. “You of all people know you don’t catch pneumonia just from being cold and wet.”
She tries to step around me, but I catch her backpack and tug it off her shoulder. I can’t put it on because she has the shoulder straps set to fit a toddler, so I hold it in my hand and start walking. She can either follow me or not. I tell myself I don’t care either way.
“Dr. Russell—” she says behind me, her feet lightly tap-tap-tapping on the marble as she hurries to keep up.
“You’re clocked out, aren’t you? Call me Matt.”
“Doctor,” she says pointedly. “Please give me my backpack before I call security.”
I laugh because really, she’s hilarious. No one has ever threatened to call security on me before.
“It’s Matt, and if you’re going to call security, make sure you ask for Tommy. He’s younger and stands a decent chance of catching me before I hightail it out of here with your pink JanSport backpack. What do you have in here anyway?”
It weighs nothing.
“My lunchbox. A water bottle. Some empty Tupperware.”
I glance behind me to check on her. She’s fast-walking as she trails behind me. Am I really that much taller than her?
“Did you bring more banana bread?”
She nods and nearly breaks out in a jog. “Patricia didn’t get any last time and I felt bad.”
“I didn’t get any last time either,” I point out.
She snorts. “Yeah well, I don’t feel bad about that.”
I face forward again so she can’t see my smile. There she goes again with that brutal honesty. In the operating room, she’s perfectly compliant. Everywhere else, she’s not.
We take the stairs down to the first level of the parking garage and I lead us toward the area reserved for doctors. She makes her way toward a black Audi, turns, and waits for me to join her.
I smirk. “That’s not my car.”
She nods. “Right, of course. I see it now.”
She goes to a bright yellow Ferrari that belongs to one of the plastic surgeons. The vanity license plate reads: SXY DOC88. “Here we are.”
“Not even close.”
“Oh, okay. I get it. You aren’t flashy. Maybe that gray Range Rover over there?”
I press the unlock button on my key fob and my rear lights flash. There she is, the car I’ve driven since I was in medical school.
“You’re kidding. A Prius?! Satan himself drives a Prius?!” She turns around as if hoping to find someone else she can share this moment with. All she’s got is me.
I shrug. “It gets good gas mileage.”
She blinks exaggeratedly. “I couldn’t be more shocked if you’d hitched a horse to a buggy.”
I chuckle and open the back door to toss in her backpack. “Get in. Traffic is going to be hell.”
We buckle up in silence, back up and leave the parking garage in silence, pull out into traffic in silence.
Finally, I ask, “Where do you live?”
“On the west side. Right across from Franklin Park.”
“Good. I have an errand I need to run that’s right by there. Mind if I do that before I drop you off?”
“Well seeing as how you stole my backpack and forced me into your car, I don’t really think it matters what I want.”
I see. She’s still pouting. That’s fine. “Good. Glad we’re on the same page.”
She doesn’t think I’m funny.