Authors: Micalea Smeltzer
I jumped and fell out of my chair.
“Dammit Jude!” I exclaimed, glaring up at his laughing form.
“Shhhh!” Hushed a girl at the table beside me in the library.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” he chortled, reaching a hand down to help me up.
I refused his hand, getting up on my own. I would never need Jude’s help—you know, except for with my paper, but that didn’t really count…right?
“Don’t you ever do that again,” I glared at him, wiping my jeans free of lint and
Lord knows what else that coated the library floor.
“No promises,” he grinned, taking the seat beside me.
“What do you want?” I asked, returning to my computer.
“I thought I was helping you with your
paper, or have you changed your mind?” He scooted the chair back and propped his legs up on the table, crossing his hands behind his head. He was the picture of ease.
“I wasn’t planning on working on it today.” I tapped my fingers against the wood table with irritation. I felt his eyes staring a hole into me. I wanted him to go away.
“Come on, don’t be a party pooper. I’m on my way to the nursing home now.” He bumped my shoulder lightly with his hand and I flinched. “I don’t bite, Tate…” He lowered his feet and leaned towards me, his grin wicked, “unless you want me to.”
“No, no, no, no way,” I stood, gathering my belongings. “I knew this was a bad idea. Forget I ever agreed to this.
I don’t need your help. Not now, not ever.”
I knew I wouldn’t be able to put up with Jude for an entire month. I’d have to come up with a new idea for my paper.
Before he could reply, I hauled ass out of there.
I heard his footsteps pounding behind me, but I refused to turn around and look at him.
It didn’t take him long to catch up to me.
His hand wrapped around my arm and he pulled me against his chest.
“Let me go!” I cried, trying to wiggle free.
His whole body pressed against mine and I didn’t like how good it felt. Jude was the last person on the planet who should turn me on.
He released me and I whipped around to glare at him. “Why won’t you leave me alone?”
“What can I say? I’m ver
y determined.” Crossing his arms over his chest, we ended up in a stare down. “I said I’d help you with your paper, and I intend to keep that promise.” Lowering his voice, he said, “I’ve never been able to figure out why you hate me so much.”
I rolled my eyes. “The fact that you don’t know says a lot.”
I started to walk away again, but he grabbed my arm to halt me.
“Jude,” I warned, only he didn’t release me this time. He stepped up behind me, his long lean body adhering to my shadow.
“Come on, Tatum,” his free hand skimmed over my shoulder, “you know you don’t want to change your project, just let me help you. Hell, you might even find that you actually like me.” His voice was low and coaxing.
“Not likely,” I wrenched my arm from his hold.
Taking several deep breaths, I tried to calm myself down. Realistically, I needed Jude’s help with this, and being stubborn would get me nowhere. Squaring my shoulders, I did the responsible thing. “Thank you for offering to help me with this. I know you didn’t have to.” Tucking a stray piece of blonde hair behind my ear I mumbled reluctantly, “I’d be happy to accompany you to the nursing home.”
“Good,” he grinned
, his eyes sparkling with victory. “By the way, I appreciate the fact that you’re trying to be nice and all, but drop the formalities. It’s weird.”
He reached for my hand and started pulling me along.
“Whoa buddy,” I dug my heels into the sidewalk, “where do you think you’re dragging me off to?”
“My truck,” he looked at me like I was stupid.
“I can follow you,” I declared.
“I veto that idea.” He stared me down. Jude could be intimidating when he wanted to, but I was not one to cower. Life had been cruel to me the last few years and I’d become tough because of it. “I think you need to get to know me. The
me, since you insist upon hating me, you should at least know exactly what it is you’re hating.”
What the hell?
“Who are you? Yoda?” I looked at him incredulously.
“I want to make a bet with you,” he grinned impishly.
“A bet? What kind of bet?” Now I did start to squirm. This had ‘bad news’ written all over it.
“How long do you need to shadow me for your paper?” He asked.
I wasn’t sure where he was going with this, but I answered anyway. “A month.”
His smile widened. “I bet that at the end of four weeks you’ll find that I’m really a nice guy.”
“Oookay,” my brows furrowed, “what do you get if you win?” I was scared to ask, but I had to know what he could want so bad that he’d be willing to make a bet.
“A date.” He waggled his eyebrows and licked his lips suggestively. If I
were a meaner person I’d push him off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic. It was the least he deserved for being such a perverted jerk.
“If I win and still hate you in a month, what do I get?” I tilted my head slightly, waiting for his response.
His eyes widened in surprise, like he couldn’t believe I might actually agree to this. I wasn’t as much of an uptight bitch as he believed.
“If you win, I will gladly kiss the stick up your ass,” he chuckled, scratching his jaw. He held out his hand to me. “Deal?”
We shook on it and my fate was sealed.
I started to head towards my car, but he stopped me once more. Since I wasn’t in the mood to argue anymore, I let him lead me to his truck. It was an old beat up blue Ford. It was nothing special, but I knew Jude loved that truck more than he loved pretty much anything. Even though it was old, it shined like it was brand new.
He opened the passenger door for me. I rolled my eyes at his pathetic effort to be a gentleman. I wasn’t fooled.
He slid into the driver’s seat and I noticed for that first time that he was no longer wearing the jeans and t-shirt he’d worn earlier. Instead he’d changed into a pair of blue scrubs. He looked professional and capable in them—two things I never thought I’d associate with Jude Brooks. I wondered what had made him decide to get into nursing, but figured that was a question better left for later.
“Let’s play a game,” he suggested, starting up the truck. The engine roared and I resisted the urge to cover my ears with my hands.
“What kind of game?” I was hesitant to play any game Jude would come up with.
bout each day I help you with your paper I get to ask you a personal question and you
to answer it honestly? If it makes you feel better you can ask me one question too.”
I sighed, figuring this was all a part of his ploy to get me on his side.
He didn’t know it, but there was nothing he could do to ever make me like him. So, I agreed. After all, what could it hurt?
“Fine. Ask me whatever you want,” I shrugged, looking out the window.
He grinned widely, reminding me of a little kid when you gave them a toy. Maybe I shouldn’t have agreed to this. He’d probably either ask me something sexual, or why I hated him so much. Neither of which I would answer.
“What’s your favorite
I swiveled towards him, my mouth parting in shock. “What?”
“What’s your favorite candy?” He repeated, smiling like he knew exactly what I had expected him to ask. “It’s a simple enough question.”
Flabbergasted, I was unable to answer him for a moment. Finally, I opened my mouth and replied, “Twizzlers. The cherry kind. That’s my favorite.”
“Twizzlers,” he mulled that over. “I would’ve never guessed that.”
favorite candy?” I asked, since I really didn’t care to ask him any personal questions. I did not want to get to know Jude.
“Hmm,” he tapped his fingers against the steering wheel as he thought. “Probably gummy bears.”
“Gummy bears?” I laughed.
His face fell. “What’s wrong with gummy bears? They’re delicious!”
“Nothing,” I said, fighting a smile, “I just didn’t expect that to be your favorite.”
“What did you expect then?” He questioned, eyes on the road.
I thought for a moment and answered, “Airheads or Sour Patch Kids.”
“Bleh,” he made a face, gagging for extra effect, “I don’t do sour. Only sweet. That’s why I like you.”
I shook my head and looked out the window once more, my bad mood instantly returning. I didn’t like it when Jude said stuff like that. I didn’t want him to pursue me, or even actually
me as a person. I hated him, so I didn’t deserve his attention.
I started to laugh to myself, because up until a moment ago, Jude and I
were having a civil conversation. I hadn’t been thinking about what he’d done to me—how he ruined my life—and he’d just been any other guy. I wished he could stay that way. I didn’t like all this hate bottled up inside me. Anger was like a poison, slithering through your veins and tainting the things you did and said. He deserved my hate for what he did, for what he
, but the hate was only hurting me and not him. I’d lived with it for so many years I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to let it go.
We arrived at the nursing home and I followed him inside. He pulled an ID badge out of his pocket and fixed it to
his shirt. The doors slid open and the smell that accompanied every medical building assaulted me. It was one of my least favorite smells—sterile and lifeless.
“Hi Trudy,” Jude greeted the older woman behind the desk. “You’re looking more beautiful than usual today. Did you do something to your hair?” She immediately turned into a swooning and blushing teenager. My God was I the only female that was immune to his charms? Get it together people. He wasn’t
good-looking and he was downright annoying.
“I did,” she batted her eyelashes, “I curled it.”
“It looks good,” he grinned. “Who am I seeing today?”
She handed him a chart and then looked at me. “Who are you?”
“Oh, uh, I’m here with him. He’s helping me with a, uh, paper,” I stammered. It wasn’t like me to act that way but I didn’t want this woman to get the impression that I was his girlfriend and we’d be sneaking off to the nearest broom closet.
She looked to Jude. “Is this true?”
Jude grinned and leaned against her desk so he could talk to her and watch me at the same time. “Look at her face, Trudy. Does that look like the face of someone that would lie to you?”
“Don’t worry,” he continued, “sadly, she is telling the truth. I wish I could tell you that she’s here because she loves me so much she can’t bear to live a moment without me in her sight. But Trudy,” he frowned, putting a hand to his heart and fake tears pooling in his eyes, “sweet Tatum here does not feel that way about me. No matter how hard I try, she does not want to be my lover. It has left me broken hearted and I’m only left with the hope that helping her with this paper will somehow make her see that she’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
“Oh, you poor thing,” Trudy reached out, patting his hand. Her gaze swiveled to me and she glared like I was an evil wench for breaking Jude’s heart. I had news for her; he didn’t have a heart to break. If he did, he wouldn’t have destroyed my life. To me she said, “Don’t get in any trouble.”
Me? Trouble? That was laughable.
“See you later, Trudy,” Jude leaned over and kissed the older woman’s cheek before scampering away. Her blush from earlier deepened and she reached up to touch her cheek. “Come on, Tate.”
“Don’t call me that,” I grumbled, trailing after him as I dug a pen and paper from my backpack.
“If I can’t call you that, can I at least call you Tater Tot? Or maybe just Tater?”
I kicked the back of his knee and he stumbled.
“I assume that’s a no then,” he chuckled, straightening his scrubs.
“You bet your ass that’s a no,” I muttered. I scribbled the date in my notebook and then pointed to the clipboard he held as we walked down the hall. “So, I’m guessing you visit different patients when you’re here?”
He nodded, suddenly becoming all business. “It’s a rotation and they mix it up. They want us to get a feel for different issues patients face, since there’s such a wide variety.”
He glanced down at his chart and stopped in front of a door. Looking over his shoulder at me, he waggled his brows. “Showtime.”
By the time Jude dropped me back off at school to get my car, I had a new respect for nurses and all medical personnel. They had to deal with some crappy stuff, all with a smile on their face. Remembering th
e Jude I’d known in high school—yes, I’d been subjected to attending the same high school as the douchebag—I couldn’t believe he was willingly taking care of people. It didn’t seem like him. If someone had asked me back then what I thought Jude would be when he grew up, I probably would’ve replied with gigolo. I hated to admit it, but Jude was surprising me. It didn’t mean I was starting to like him though. It would take far more than his career choice to change my opinion of him.