Authors: Em Petrova
by Em Petrova
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright© 2011 Em Petrovan
Cover Artist: Victoria Miller
Editor: Michayla Hart
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
by Em Petrova
Margot dropped her face into her hands and slumped against the cabinet, fighting to find her happy place in the whirlwind of the hectic ER. This morning alone she’d assisted with setting two broken bones, helped with seventeen stitches on a toddler’s forehead, and wheeled countless patients to MRI for possible concussions. The first day of summer was kicking the neighborhood kids’ asses, as well as hers.
She drew a deep breath. The scent of disinfectant stung her nostrils, but gave her a measure of calm. She really didn’t want to check the clock. Knowing she still had eight hours on her shift depressed her enough without counting down the minutes until she’d be with Jane and Ethan again.
Just thinking their names sent a shiver of desire through her. In the past few months since she’d started sharing their lives—and their bed—she’d begun to really know happiness. No. Happiness didn’t touch the emotion this beautiful couple lifted in her. Joy better de-scribed it.
And after a mere—she stole a look at the white face of the clock—
seven hours and forty-seven minutes, she’d abandon her scrubs and slip into their arms.
“Margot, we need your help over here. A patient is requesting you by name.”
She raised her head. “It’s not one of my kids, is it? They’re at their grandmother’s, and I’ve warned them about not wearing helmets while they bike—”
The older nurse gave her a gentle smile and shook her head. “It’s not one of your kids, hon. He’s a full grown man. And by the looks of him, a dangerous one.”
A ripple of dread ran down Margot’s spine. A few months before, her ex-husband had been giving her a lot of trouble. After an alterca-tion on Jane and Ethan’s front lawn, he’d been carted off to jail. Of course, he was only held for a short time for harassment. But he hadn’t bothered her since, and she’d managed to get his visitation rights with their twins supervised.
“Who is it?” she hissed as she rounded the doorway and locked gazes with
Six feet tall and two hundred pounds of pure lean muscle all wrapped up in a sexy, badass package. Danny MacIntyre, former army sergeant and veteran of the Iraq War. He’d been in the emergency room once before after spending the night with some de-bilitating pain from his war injury.
Judging by his expression, he burned with pain again. When he saw her, his face transformed. The creases fell away to reveal a look of pure relief.
“Thanks, Dana. I’ll take it from here.” Her dismissive tone sent the other nurse away, leaving Margot alone with Danny.
“Hi there, stranger. You miss me?” She crossed the room toward him slowly, aware of him like she was aware of Ethan—with a primal urge to give up control. Something about this dark, troubled man spoke to her inner femininity. He made her feel dainty and secure, even though she had the authority over his care.
A slight smile tugged at the corners of his hard mouth, but it never quite made it, giving away the strain he felt.
“Your leg’s hurting again.”
He clamped a big hand around his knee and rocked a bit on the patient bed. “God, yes.”
There was a veteran’s hospital across town, but he’d told her he couldn’t stand going in there and facing the other soldiers. So he’d 2
come here, to the city hospital, and found a pretty nurse to take care of him instead.
“Let me get some information first, and then we’ll see what can be done for the pain.” She grabbed a clipboard and started filling in the blanks, surprised by how much she recalled from his last visit. It was unusual for her to remember a patient’s details. She saw hundreds on a daily basis.
As she came closer, his masculine scent infused her senses. He smelled soap-and-water fresh, with an underlying musk. That musk was the true danger though. A danger to her self-control. That and his striking eyes. They were widely spaced, fringed with pale, thick lashes, and green. Green like the grass sprawling from the back deck of the Millers’ home and leading to the turquoise water of their swim-ming pool.
“How long have you been in pain?”
“One year, two months, six days, and”—he looked over her shoulder at the clock—”twelve hours. Now let’s get rid of it, okay?” She set her lips in an unsteady line and shook her head. “I hope we can help this time. Have you been to physical therapy like the doctor recommended?”
He shook his head. “I went for a few days, then stopped. I do some exercises at home, and walk, but that’s the trouble. When I’m at home, the pain is manageable. Going into the world makes it worse.” Realization settled over her. She understood all too well what he meant—that most of his pain was from psychological trauma. After two tours in the Iraq War, he’d faced atrocities most people didn’t understand. The horrific wound on his upper thigh was nothing compared to the emotional scars he bore.
Gently, she rested a hand on his forearm. His tendons leaped beneath her fingers, and then slowly eased. He released a stuttering sigh.
“What happened today that brought on the pain?” She found herself leaning against the bed, her hip flush against his thigh. It didn’t feel weird, though—touching him felt good. It felt right. Too right.
His mouth formed a grimace. “I took a walk. That’s all, Margot.” She didn’t believe that was all, but at the moment she couldn’t think around the sound of her name on his lips. It ripped through her, raising lurid images of his strong body moving atop hers, his tongue hot and devouring.
Trying to recover from the unsettled feeling in her belly, she straightened. “Okay. Well, we’re slammed today with patients. Kids 3
mostly. It’s the first day of summer and apparently every child in the city is determined to mess themselves up as badly as they can before they’ve enjoyed a single day. I don’t know how long it will take for the doctor to be in to see you, but I promise I’ll send him as soon as possible.”
“Don’t leave.” His hand flashed out and caught hers, the grip strong, his thick fingers spreading hers slightly.
“Ooh kaay. Can I bring you an ice pack for your leg at least?” His broad shoulders relaxed a bit. “That’d be good.” As Margot left the room in search of ice, her mind fumbled over the things he’d said and made her feel. He obviously needed some help—counseling at the very least, and a friend to support him. From what he’d told her before, he was pretty much alone in the world—a world that didn’t understand why soldiers coming home were sometimes cynical or erratic in their behaviors.
You can’t save every stray pup, Margot.
On the heels of this thought was another.
Yeah, but kindness can
go a long way.
She knew this firsthand. After her divorce, she’d been depressed beyond belief. When Jane Miller had seduced her in the dressing room at the gym, she’d begun the journey of healing and gaining back some precious self-esteem. She didn’t think seduction in a locker room would heal Danny MacIntyre, but her friendship might help him.
She grabbed an ice pack and a towel to wrap it in, and then returned to the room where the sexy vet sat. He’d hunched over to knead his muscular thigh. The sight of his strong hand working over his leg turned her body to mush. Her nipples bunched up and a spike of heat went south, straight to her pussy. If she’d been aching before, she throbbed now.
“Here you go.” She placed the ice in his hands, along with a patient gown. “You might want to put this on. The doctor will want to look at your leg.”
“Do you think I’m just wasting time here? Should I go home?” His roughened voice washed over her, sending need pounding through her veins and inspired images of his callused hands on her.
“You’re in pain, and that’s not okay. I know a lot of people live with chronic pain such as this, but I think there must be an answer for you.”
“An answer that doesn’t involve sitting in an emergency room on one of the most beautiful days of the year? Margot...” 4
She met his gaze, waiting for him to go on. Was her reaction to him apparent? She had no idea if she was as transparent as Ethan told her. Ethan claimed to have seen her need for him from the start, and knew she’d fought it because she feared that sharing Jane’s husband would cause a rift in their marriage, when it had only strengthened it.
If her face was an open book, this beautiful man might see the feelings coursing through her body that her logical mind tried to squash.
She felt physically attracted to him in a way that equaled her need for Ethan. But there was something finer beneath the surface of that want—a deeper connection. With Danny, Margot saw the man under the trauma. Bold. Intelligent. Caring. And sexy as hell.
“What is it?” she asked a little breathlessly.
“What if I really came here to see you again? What if I asked you out?”Her jaw fell open. For a heartbeat, she stared at his rugged face.
Was she hearing things? This handsome man couldn’t possibly be in-terested in her too. Her body responded instantly, her pussy releasing a little flood of cream into her lace panties. Again, images of lovemaking flashed in the recesses of her imagination.
Quickly, the heat in her core ebbed away.
The idea of going out with Danny tempted her, but she shouldn’t really date the patients. Over the years, she’d had her share of men asking her out while she worked toward making them feel better, but she’d always scoffed them off with a bit of gentle humor. Danny’s offer burned bright in her mind—a heat she couldn’t quench.
She dropped her gaze and stared at the tiled floor, her mind working furiously around the situation.
He shifted as if to hop off the bed. “I’m sorry about that. I don’t know what I was thinking. Guess the pain has finally addled my brain because I haven’t even thought about asking a woman out in so long, I’ve quit counting the years. I’m sorry for making you uncomfortable.” Her gaze snapped to his, and she shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. Sit still and wait for the doctor.”
“Honestly, I don’t think a doctor can do anything for me. My leg is...well, it is what it is. They’ve repaired it the best they can, and I should just be happy they didn’t have to amputate. I don’t know why I came here.” He took a step, and then whirled around and pierced her with his forceful gaze.
She gaped at him.
“Screw it. I’m throwing out caution today. I came here for you, Margot. Because I’ve been thinking about you nonstop for a week and a half. I can’t get you out of my head.” He cupped his skull in his hands and ruffled the hair at his temples. “I want to take you out, maybe after your shift. What do you say?”
“If you hadn’t first rounded that curtain wearing the prettiest blush a few minutes ago, I wouldn’t have had the courage to ask. But you did, and it’s made me think.”
She lifted her fingertips to her cheeks, which were heating now. As perspiration broke out at her hairline, she gulped. She was involved in a committed relationship with Jane and Ethan, as unconventional as it was. Also, she didn’t know if dating a patient was prudent.
But the smoldering expression in Danny’s green eyes set fire to the kindling of her desire. She hadn’t dated in so long. Getting to know someone new couldn’t hurt, could it? Even if she simply extended the hand of friendship to a man who desperately needed it. And surely Jane and Ethan would understand.