Read Carol's Image Online

Authors: Maryann Jordan

Tags:, #Fluffer Nutter

Carol's Image (9 page)

BOOK: Carol's Image
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As Carol’s eyes expertly scanned the menu, she mentally calculated the lowest calorie meal without seeming obvious. She stilled her nerves, trying not to look at him, having already memorized his every feature. Navy slacks, cut to fit his muscular thighs. Light blue dress shirt, with the cuffs rolled at the wrists.
Tall. Blond. Built. Strong jaw, ocean blue eyes that twinkle, and kissable lips. Kissable lips? Oh Jesus, read the menu. Read the menu. Remember, this is just dinner. Nothing more. If he wants a new fuck-buddy, he can look elsewhere!

His leg brushed against hers sending a tingle all the way from her knee to her pussy. She clenched her thighs to ease the pressure.
Read the menu,
she chanted like a mantra.

Tom smiled, noticing the slight movement as she pressed her legs together.
So she’s not as unaffected by me as I thought.

The waiter came over and took their orders.

“I’ll have the baked chicken with steamed vegetables,” she stated as she eyed the rolls the waiter had put on the table. Melted butter slid off of their sides, pooling in the plate under them.
Chicken – 140 calories. Steamed vegies – 60 calories. I could have one roll. 120 calories without the butter. I could run more tomorrow.

“I’m glad you ordered food and not just a salad,” he commented, unknowingly interrupting her calorie counting.

She smiled, but once again it did not reach her eyes. Shrugging softly, she admitted, “I like to eat.”

Tom, his eyebrow lifted in question, stated, “Well, I don’t know where it goes, ’cause you’re a tiny thing.”

The smile left her face as she turned to look at the majestic view outside the window. He felt the loss of her smile immediately, wanting to do nothing more than have it back on her beautiful face again and directed at him.

“Tell me about bein’ a nurse,” he asked, hoping to pull her out of her silence.

Whipping her head around to look at him, the change in Carol’s demeanor was instantaneous. “I love it!” she said, her smile returning in its full glory. “I’ve been a nurse for about four years and it is everything I ever wanted it to be.”

Tom, thrilled to have found the topic that sparked her obvious joy, prodded more. “What about the ER? Is that where you want to work or did you just get stuck there?”

“Oh no,” she replied, placing her hand on his arm. “I think the ER is the most fascinating place to work. Every day is different. Every hour is different.” Feeling the strength of his arm muscles under her hand sent a spark through her, reminding her of their first meeting when he was injured. Jerking her hand back, she glanced into his eyes.

He felt the spark as well, also remembering her touch when he was almost unconscious. He felt the loss of her hand and reached out to grasp her hand in his much larger one.

“You were tellin’ me about the ER?” he asked, his fingers tracing gentle circles on her hand.

“I love never knowing what will walk through the door. It really keeps me on my toes. And sometimes there is such a connection with a patient.” Looking deeply into his eyes, she said, “Like your friend’s wife, Jen.”

“Do you often make a connection?” he asked, thinking about his accident.
Does she recognize me? Does she realize it was my hand she was holding?

“Well…there was one person, when I held their hand after they were injured, I felt a connection,” she spoke quietly, lowering her eyes, afraid to see what his memories were.

“I was injured recently, and I swear to god, an angel held my hand,” he spoke, leaning so that his voice was just a whisper in her ear.

Immediately raising her eyes to his, she barely spoke. “You remember?”

Leaning further so that his lips were touching her ear, “Angel, I remember everything about you.”

Sucking her breath in sharply, she turned her face so that her lips were next to his. “You thought I was an angel.”

“No babe. I knew you were.” And with that, he completed the distance so that his lips touched her in the barest hint of a kiss.

Eyes wide, she was stunned, then confused. “So is that what this is? Tonight, I mean? You wanting to thank me?”

Placing his hand gently on her cheek, turning her face back to his, he replied, “Angel, I looked for you for weeks. I couldn’t get you out of my mind. And when I finally saw you in the ER, that was it for me babe. I was gonna move heaven and earth to make you mine.”

She found that the warmth of his words wrapped around her like a blanket. Smiling, she allowed him to pull her in for another whisper kiss.

The waiter arrived with their food and Carol found herself glad for the distraction. Focusing on the food, she was a master at eating small portions while making it look as though she was just taking time with her food. She forced herself to focus on Tom and their conversation, not mentally calculating the calories.
Why am I doing this now? I have been so healthy! It’s that damn invitation from my parents, being here with Tom, and that bitch, Anita.

Their conversation flowed as they swapped stories of her adventures in the ER and his adventures as a detective.

“So tell me about your two friends that were in the ER with you?” she asked.

“You saw me there and didn’t come in and say somethin’? Hell Carol, you could’ve saved me weeks of lookin’ for you,” he admonished.

“How was I to know you were interested?” she shot back.

Tom just shook his head in frustration. “Clueless.”

“Would you stop saying that?”

Holding her eyes with his, “Angel, anyone who looks like you ought to know, any man would be interested.”

“Carol? Carol Fletcher?” a male voice came from behind them.

Tom turned, scowling at the interruption, his irritation focused on a man, dressed in an expensive suit, walking over toward them. Tall, slender, with his dark brown hair styled as though he spent a great deal of time in a salon. The man never looked over at Tom, but kept his eyes on Carol as he approached.

Confusion, replaced by recognition showed on Carol’s face. “Ronald?”

Ronald Harriston, the son of one of her father’s associates and a man her father had deemed worthy to be husband material, kept walking until he was right next to Carol, on the opposite side of Tom. Leaning down he kissed her cheek, causing Carol to jerk back uncomfortably. Tom, already irritated at the interruption, was willing to make a concession to a friend of hers, but seeing her reaction he stood up quickly, moving forward forcing Ronald to step back.

Carol attempted an introduction to intervene. “Ronald, it’s been a long time. Tom, this is Ronald Harriston, a friend of my father. Ronald, this is Tom, my da…”

“Her boyfriend,” Tom finished. Taking control of the situation, he placed his left hand possessively on the back of Carol’s neck, extending his right hand toward Ronald.

Ronald looked surprised but shook Tom’s hand nonetheless. “Your father hadn’t mentioned that you were seeing someone.” Sizing Tom up, he continued, “I’m more than just a family friend, I am an old
of Carol’s.”

Bristling, Carol stated, “I don’t report everything to my father, Ronald. I haven’t for a long time, as I’m sure you know.” Outwardly calm, she could feel the panic building.
The invitation. I’ve got to deal with that soon.

“Your parents miss you, Carol. They say you don’t come around very often to see them.”

“I see them occasionally.” Anger mixed with the panic, made Carol feel lightheaded.
You can do this. You can do this.
“You know as well as anyone that they don’t approve of my career.”

“So you’re still playing nurse at the hospital.”

“Playing?” Carol sputtered.

Tom moved so that his body was between Carol and Ronald, forcing Ronald’s eyes up to his. “I think it is time you moved on.”

The feeling of being out of control overtook Carol. She looked down at the food still left on her plate, the smell of it turning her stomach. “If you gentlemen will excuse me, I’ll be right back,” she said as she moved past Tom, walking toward the restrooms.

Ronald watched her momentarily before turning back to Tom, realizing his mistake upon seeing the fury on his face.

Tom growled, “As an old friend, you get one pass, man and that was it. I catch you starin’ at my woman’s ass again you’ll be eatin’ through a straw. You got me?”

Ronald smirked, “I apologize. Good evening.” He turned and moved away, leaving the restaurant.

Fuck. A perfect dinner ruined by that asshole. And Anita. Could it get any worse?
Getting angrier by the moment, he forced himself to calm down. Glancing toward the ladies’ room, he noticed an older woman approaching him. Looking at her questioningly, he asked, “May I help you, ma’am?”

“I’m sorry,” she spoke softly. “I was just in the ladies’ room and I think your date is ill.”

Quickly thanking her, Tom strode over to the door of the restroom. Hesitating, he knocked before opening the door. Scanning the room to make sure it was clear of others, he only saw Carol’s shoes under one of the stalls. The sound of retching came from the stall, followed by a sob.

Heading over to the sink, he took one of the clean wash clothes, soaking it in cold water.

Walking to the door, he knocked. “Angel. Let me in.”

“Tom! What are you doing here?” she said, panicked.

“Babe, let me in.” He pushed gently on the door. Pulling her out of the stall, he wrapped his arm around her, supporting her, holding the wet washcloth to her face.

“What happened, angel? Are you sick?”

“I had to get rid of it. I had to get rid of dinner,” she spoke on a whisper, her body shaking.

Tossing the cloth into the trash can, he wrapped her in both of his arms, pulling her body into his tight embrace. Rubbing her back with his hand, he willed her body to calm.

“What happened, babe?”

Shaking her head from side to side, she pressed her face into his chest.

“Eyes, angel. Eyes on me.”

She lifted her face, leaning way back to peer into his eyes. Pulling her lips in tightly again, she breathed through her nose, trying not to cry.

“What happened?” he softly asked again.

“I’m sorry.”

“I don’t want you to be sorry, angel. I want you to tell me what is goin’ on.”

Looking back down, she spoke on a whisper. “I…sometimes…purge when I’m stressed. I…I… haven’t done it in a long time. Just…”

“Angel, eyes on me,” he ordered quietly.

She shook her head, not wanting to see the repulsion she knew would be on his face.
No one knows this. Why did I tell him?

Tom brought one hand around to cup her face, gently pulling her face up to his. “Eyes, angel.”

Pulling her lips in again, she brought her eyes up to his. Blue eyes met blue eyes. No repulsion. No anger. No aversion. No distaste. Just warmth. Comfort. Care.

“Are you seein’ someone to help you?”

She nodded. “I’ve been seeing a counselor since I was twenty years old. First at the university, then I found someone here in town. She retired, and I have a new one, but I hardly have to see her now. Just when I feel like I need it.”

“You know what makes it worse?”

She nodded again. “Stress, new situations, feeling out of control…pretty much everything that has been happening in the last few days.” She paused for a moment, seeming to work something out in her mind. Raising her eyes back to his, “Anything to do with my parents.”

Tom nodded, not wanting to keep asking questions at this time, especially standing in the middle of the ladies’ room. “Let’s go, angel.” He kept her tucked tightly as they walked back out of the restaurant. Not looking at the questioning glance of the hostess, he walked her out to his truck helping her up into the cab.

The ride home was silent. Carol was mortified that she had confessed to him her illness.
Well, it was nice while it lasted. Mental note to self – never confess to a hot guy that you throw up sometimes on purpose. A total mood killer.


Arriving at her apartment, Carol’s hand on the car handle, she quickly said goodnight as she began to open the door.

Tom’s voice rumbled through the truck. “Angel, I once told you what I’d do if you open that door before I was ready.”

Her head snapped around, a questioning look on her face.
I’ve already laid myself bare, might as well make it final.
“Tom, you don’t have to play nice right now. I know what I have. I know how to help myself, but sometimes, when life is stressful, I have to remind myself to make healthier choices. I didn’t do that tonight, and you have no idea how sorry I am about that. But the fact of the matter is that I shared something with you that I haven’t told anyone. I don’t even know why I did it, but I can’t take the words back. But you don’t have to pretend that this doesn’t repulse you. Let me just preserve as much dignity as I can out of this evening, and say goodnight.”

Not saying a word, he jumped out of the truck, stalking around to her side. Opening her door, he reached in and plucked her out of the seat. Squealing, she wrapped her arms around his neck to keep from falling.

BOOK: Carol's Image
4.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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