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Authors: Maryann Jordan

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Carol's Image (7 page)

BOOK: Carol's Image
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Tom, listening outside the room, was surprised when he was joined by a male nurse.

“Name’s Jon. I’m a friend of Carol’s. She getting patched up by Sofia?”

Tom nodded, eyeing Jon carefully.

Jon laughed. “Don’t worry man. I’m just her friend. She’s a great girl, but…well, I just don’t swing that way.”

Tom nodded once again, seeing an ally in Jon. Both men stayed outside the examining room, unashamedly listening to the conversation.

“Carol, honey, I’ve been married a long time. Nothin’ wrong with a man goin’ all caveman on you, if his heart’s in the right place. That’s not the same as a dictator prick who just wants to control you.”

Tom overheard a snort coming from the room.

Sofia continued. “Yeah, you know what I’m sayin’. You grew up with that kind of dictator. But honey, there can be the kind of man who gives you everything he has to give and would give anything just to take care of you. That kind of man…well, you’ve never had that before. Might just be what your detective is and might just be what you need.”

Just then a young, smiling, male doctor walked passed Tom and Jon straight into the examining room. “Miss Fletcher, I heard you were injured. I wanted to come down to make sure you were all right.”

Jon moaned. “That prick, Dr. Driscoll, is always sniffing after Carol and she won’t give him the time of day!”

Oh hell no,
Tom thought. Pushing his way past Jon he walked into the room as well, with Jon close on his heels.

He stopped, glaring at the doctor who looked up in surprise. Glancing over Tom saw Carol, wide-eyed, holding her scrub top in front of her chest, with her shoulder in a sling.

Jon, quickly walking over to the examining table said, “Carol, I found your boyfriend waiting outside and knew you would want him in here with you.”

Her eyes snapped from Jon to Tom to Sofia and then to Dr. Driscoll. Not knowing what to say, she blushed bright red.

Tom, furious with the doctor trying to use his interest in Carol to get into the examining room couldn’t help but notice her gorgeous blush creeping from her barely covered chest to her hairline. Walking over, he wrapped his arm around her uninjured arm, kissing the top of her head. “I was worried, baby. Jon helped me find you.”

Dr. Driscoll, scowling, turned and left the room muttering about unofficial people in the ER. Sofia and Jon burst into laughter at the retreating doctor’s back.

Tom looked down as Carol looked up, not surprised to see her eyes flashing fury. Not letting go of her he leaned down, barely brushing his lips over hers.

“Angel, I can see you are all ready to pitch a fit, but let me lay this out for you. I was mad out there earlier ’cause I saw a woman, especially a woman I’m interested in, get kicked by an out of control drunk. That shit doesn’t fly with me, Carol. Now I was waitin’ outside patiently with your friend Jon, when the next asshole comes walkin’ in like he has a right to see your body just ’cause he works here. Jon didn’t think it was cool, and I sure as hell didn’t either. So we came in, made a play, not to embarrass you, but to make sure that asshole knows you aren’t on the market. You got that, angel?”

Carol, still grasping the scrub top to her chest, just blinked slowly. She heard Sofia say, “Damn girl. That is hot.”

Blue eyes stared into blue eyes. Tom whispered, “You got me, Carol?”

“You’re interested in me?” was all Carol could think to say.

Tom, leaning back in surprise, looked at her beautiful face. Shaking his head, he replied, “That’s all you got from that, angel? Yeah, I’m interested in you.”

It did not escape Tom’s notice that Sofia and Jon exchanged looks. Remembering what Sofia had said about Carol growing up with a dictator, he figured that might have something to do with her self-esteem. Vowing to himself to work on that later, he turned to Sofia.

“Is she ready to go home?”

Sofia nodded, “Yeah, her arm is just bruised, so we’re putting it in a sling to limit the movement for a couple of days. The ER charge nurse told her to take three days off due to an injury at work.”

Jon snorted at that. “They don’t want her to file a complaint since the guard did not do his job.”

Tom noticed that Carol was still sitting perfectly still, with her pink scrub top clutched to her chest. Her back was perfectly shaped, her porcelain skin beckoned. He wanted to start at her ears and kiss his way down her neck to her shoulders, continue the path down toward her –.
Get your mind off her breasts and get her home.

“I’ll take her home,” he announced to a grinning Sofia and Jon.

Carol, snapping out of her trance of the last several minutes, asked, “Just who do you think you are?”

“I’m the man who would give you everything… and give anything to take care of you,” he announced, using Sofia’s words from earlier. “Get dressed, angel. I’ll wait outside.”

Dropping a kiss to the top of her head he sauntered outside, Jon following behind.

Sofia turned to her friend. “Girl, don’t go getting mad. That gorgeous, protective man just made a play for you in a big way. He’s not taking your freedom, Carol. He’s just giving you all he has.” Helping Carol get her top back on and then replacing the arm sling, she leaned into her friend’s face. “Girl, you deserve someone who will take care of all that you are. You find that you can give yourself to a man like that, you will never be alone again. Think about it, Carol.”

She just nodded, the dying adrenaline rush of the morning’s activities coming on the heels of a graveyard shift, was leaving her exhausted. Walking out of the exam room, she saw Tom leaning up against the wall, talking to Jon. He cut his eyes over to her and she felt their warmth flow deep inside of her.
What are you doing? You finally break away from your father and you fall into the arms of someone who wants control?
She stood there breathing deeply for a moment, pulling her lips in as she continued to worry.
But he makes me feel…safe.

His mouth turned up in a grin as though he could read her thoughts, knowing that she was beginning to thaw towards him. “Come on, angel. Let’s go.”

She walked over to him, uncertainty showing on her face. Looking from Tom to Jon, she saw her friend with a shit-eating grin on his face and she quirked her eyebrow at him in question.

“Take care, sweetie. Sofia and I’ll hold down the fort until you get back.” Leaning in to give her a hug, he whispered in her ear. “Carol, give this one a chance. He’s great…and you deserve that.”

Tom pulled her uninjured side in closely, tucking her tight into him as he propelled her out through the doors toward his truck. Clicking the locks he opened the door for her, but before she could step up into the cab he lifted her up as though she weighed nothing and gently placed her on the seat. “I’ll get you buckled up, angel.”

Letting him take charge was creating angst since she never let anyone take control over her. But it felt nice. Cared for. Loved.
Loved? Oh my god…get a grip. Just a friend. Just a friend.

Once buckled in, Tom leaned over barely touching his lips to hers. “You okay?”

Carol just stared, once again stunned into silence.

“Angel. Are you okay?”

She managed to nod, which Tom seemed satisfied with. Rounding the front, he hauled himself up into the driver’s side.

Pulling out of the parking lot, Carol finally found her voice. “Do you remember where I live?”

“I know where you live, angel. I had it checked out after our run the other day.”

Shocked, she whirled her head around to look at the man in the driver’s seat. The gorgeous man. The muscular man. The man who made her want to lock her lips to his. The infuriating, take charge, get-in-your-business man.

“You checked me out? You investigated me?” she asked, her voice beginning to rise with each question.

“Carol,” Tom replied patiently, as though talking to someone who just wasn’t getting it. “I wanted to make sure you were livin’ somewhere safe. I checked to see if there were any registered sexual predators around. Gorgeous, single woman livin’ alone. Wanna get to know you, angel. You’re on my radar, and I plan on makin’ sure you are safe.”

“That doesn’t strike you as stalkerish?” was the only response Carol could think of.
Is this his way of being in control? No, safe. It feels safe.

“Plus you’re fuckin’ clueless,” he continued.

Eyes wide in fury, Carol looked over at him again, all the warmth of the previous moment gone. “What did you call me? Clueless? Oh my god, what a jerk! I told you before I’m not some helpless female that’s going to fall at your feet. You can just drop me off here – I’m walking the rest of the way!” she stated, putting her hand on the car door handle.

Tom looked over at her hand. “Babe, you try to get out of this moving truck and I swear to god, I’ll paddle your ass right here.”

Carol, so incensed, could tell tears were ready to fall, both from anger and fatigue, but fought them back with everything she had.
I will not cry in front of him.

Parking at her apartment building, he turned to face her. Seeing her distress, he knew she needed careful handling. “Angel, eyes on me.” Waiting momentarily for her to pull herself together, he repeated gently. “Angel, eyes.”

Carol responding to the warmth in his tone, looked at him. Speaking in barely a whisper, she said, “Clueless. How could you call me clueless?”

Breathing in deeply, Tom reached over to cup her cheek. Relieved that she did not pull away, he explained. “Woman, you’re gorgeous but seem to have no fuckin’ clue that you are. While that makes you nice to be around ’cause you’re not always tryin’ to shove your looks in everyone’s face, you go around with no idea what men are thinkin’. And that could be dangerous. You’ve got a huge heart, wantin’ to take care of everyone, includin’ some piece of shit drunk, but that could be dangerous too if you’re not careful. The hospital’s got guards. Hell, you had a trained detective right next to you and yet you tried to jump in.”

Noticing that she was still staring at him, but had leaned ever so slightly into his hand, he continued. “You’re also a woman that doesn’t play games, and that makes you priceless to me. I like what I see. I like what I know about you. I wanna get to know you better, angel. I get that somewhere in your past you were controlled by someone that gets off on being in control. Angel, that isn’t me. I wanna be in charge, but that’s because it will always be all about you. Takin’ care of you. Gettin’ to know you.”

Carol let those words sink in, feeling the emotion in the truck cab soothe her pain. Cautiously, she said, “Tom, you may think I’m clueless and some of what you said was right. But I’m not dumb.”

“Never said you were, angel.”

Sucking her lips in tightly for a moment, she plunged ahead. “I don’t really date…much. I can tell you’re the kind of guy who has women falling all over you. I don’t do well…with…feeling…I mean, I often feel…”

“Carol, you’re no one-night stand or fuck-buddy, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

He hated seeing her wince at his words, but knew that he needed to make sure she understood where he was coming from.

“I’ve been around. I’m not gonna pretend, but I’ve always been up front, never led anyone on, never cared about anyone. It was always just physical. Always been careful, and I’m clean.” He watched Carol wince again.
Damn. I shoulda been more like Jake in the last couple of years and kept it in my pants more.
He hated the look on her face. He wouldn’t have been surprised to see the repulsion at his actions, but what he saw was worse. Self-doubt was written all across her face. Understanding now that she was struggling with herself, he brushed his thumb over her delicate face.

Leaning in closer, so that his lips were a breath away from hers, he continued. “Never been interested in a woman like I’m interested in you. I wanna take the time to explore what we’ve got. Wanna get the clueless out of your head and get you with me.”

Seeing her close her eyes for a moment, he felt her lean into his hand even further. Smiling, he touched his lips to hers again. “You with me, angel?”

She barely nodded, and Tom needed no more encouragement. Taking her lips in a slow, gentle kiss, he ran his tongue over the seam, plunging in as she opened to him. The kiss turned harder, wetter, more emotion, more passion. More everything.

Carol, lost in the feelings, never wanted the kiss to end.
I’ve never been kissed like this. Never. God, he is going to ruin me for anyone else. And then where will I be? Alone.
Pulling back, she looked down, trying to still her racing heart.

“You were with me, angel. You stopped doubting, and you were with me. I don’t know where you went, but the doubt came back.”

Blue eyes stared into blue eyes. Smiling, Tom leaned back in for a quick kiss before getting out of his truck and rounding the front to open her door. Escorting her upstairs into her apartment, seeing her settled with some pain medicine and tucking her into bed before leaving, he smiled the whole time.

Chapter 6

ou seem nervous today, Carol. Is there something going on that you want to talk about?”

Carol looked across the coffee table at the soft spoken, caring counselor. Smiling, Carol spoke up, “Well, I do have a date tonight. I just don’t know how I feel about it.”

“Why do you have to feel anything about it, right now?”

“We’re going to a restaurant that I am not familiar with. It makes me feel…unsure.”

Ronda gently prodded. “Unsure?”

Taking a deep, cleansing breath, Carol focused on her choices. Choices learned from many counseling sessions.

“Okay, I am unsure because it’s different. I still hate not knowing menus ahead of time and not knowing how the bathrooms are.” Looking back up at Ronda, she continued. “I know that sounds silly. I haven’t purged in years, but whenever I feel nervous, it is a hard habit to get out of.”

“Well, let’s look at the two separate issues. One, what are your choices when faced with something new. And two, let’s look at why you are nervous. You pick which one you want to talk about first.”

BOOK: Carol's Image
10.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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