CHAPTER 1: TESSA
“Four pokes today, Mr. Liam,” I say in the baby voice that annoys even me after I’ve administered the oral vaccine for today’s visit. Liam’s mom looks nervous as I scrub his thigh with the alcohol swab. “He did great at his two-month well visit, so he’ll be fine,” I remind her.
I pull the caps off all four shots so I can give them as quickly as possible, and then the poking commences. The baby lets out a healthy scream and mom gathers baby Liam up in her arms, covering his bald head with kisses.
Maybe working as a nurse in a pediatrician’s office given my history paired with the tiny case of baby fever I have and no prospects on the horizon wasn’t such a good idea. I want to snuggle baby Liam and dry those tears, but it’s his mom’s job.
At twenty-five, I’m in prime wedding season. Most of the women in my extended circle are either engaged or close, and two of them are pregnant. Meanwhile I’m hung up on my high school sweetheart and haven’t had sex in nine months…and that last time was after a third date. The guy turned out to be nothing to write home about.
“Thank you, Nurse Tessa,” Liam’s mom says to me after Liam quiets down in her arms.
I try not to giggle at her formality. “Of course. We’ll see you for his six-month appointment.”
Liam and his mom leave, and I head back to my station to finish up some paperwork. My phone buzzes with a notification, and when I check it, the screen says, “NFL Roster Alert: Aces wide receiver T. Higgins changed to questionable ahead of Sunday’s game.”
“Shit,” I whisper under my breath. I’m not supposed to be on my phone at work, but I click the link anyway as my heart thumps loudly.
“Higgins (hamstring) was limited at Wednesday’s practice. His status is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Bears.”
I blow out a breath and open a browser to see if I can find another article that explains more.
“Put the phone away, Taylor.”
I glance up guiltily at Cam Foster. He’s one of the newer doctors on the marquee of the office. He only comes in on Mondays and Thursdays since he also works at the hospital, where he’s a surgeon, but he uses our practice to meet with patients in a setting outside of but within walking distance to the hospital. He’s a total dick, which is a real shame since he’s got one of those strong jawlines always covered with the sexiest stubble.
“Sorry, Dr. Foster.” I don’t mention that I prefer to be called by my first name, not my last.
“Don’t be sorry. Just don’t do it.”
I open my mouth to explain what I was looking at, but I stop myself short and wave my hand in the air instead. “You’re right. I apologize.”
“Send me your notes on your last few visits with Logan Wesley,” he demands.
I click a few buttons on my tablet to send them over despite the fact that he has access to all the files in the office and can easily do it himself. “Done.”
“I’ll be looking these over in my office. Get me a cup of coffee.” He spins and heads toward his office, and I stop working on the paperwork I’m filling out so I can be his bitch.
With extreme reluctance given the fact that I have my own work to do, I head toward the break room to get him his coffee, mumbling to myself the entire time about what bullshit this is and what a royal asshole he is.
But I do it anyway.
I’m a good employee, and my boss really respects Dr. Foster. He is a great doctor. Too bad he’s such a jerk.
“Dr. Foster?” I ask a short while later, knocking on the doorframe as I peek into his office with the cup of coffee he requested.
He’s alone, sitting behind his desk studying some paperwork. He slips off a pair of black framed glasses that make him look like a sexy nerd. He massages the bridge of his nose with two long fingers before he looks up at me. “What?”
I step into the office and set the coffee on his desk, and he doesn’t even acknowledge I did it.
“I have three forms for you to sign. You have a two o’clock with Logan Wesley, but you’re free until then. Can you take one of Paul’s patients for a sick visit before then? He’s overbooked.”
He blows out a chuckle. “Free. Like I’m ever free.”
It’s so weird how he’s such a douche to me, yet he’s so kind when I watch him with kids…like as in so kind that sometimes I get a little tingle in my tummy when I see him kneel down and talk to kids on their level.
A ring is noticeably absent from the third finger of his left hand, but we’ve never shared anything about our personal lives. He only comes in twice a week, and he’s all business. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy who has time for a relationship, and I can’t really imagine him with a woman. Not when I think about how belittling he can be toward women in general. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe he looks down at me because he considers me his subordinate.
He narrows his eyes and tilts his head for a moment as he gazes at me, and then he shakes his head. “Can Marsha take the sick visit?”
“I’ll ask Sara,” I say, referring to one of Marsha’s nurses, a girl who happens to be my best friend and my roommate.
He nods once and returns his attention to the paperwork, and I gaze at him for a beat. As much as I hate him, he’s also the only man I’ve had even an inkling of a crush on in years. There’s one boy who holds my heart, but something about Cameron Foster makes me think there’s possibilities of moving forward.
March will mark seven years since everything happened. I should have moved on at this point.
It wasn’t just a break-up or some teenage heartbreak. It was a complete metamorphosis. I’m different than I was back then. My life is split in two now: before him and after him.
I shake him out of my head as I focus on Cam for a beat. It’s not just his strong, healing hands or his lush, medium-brown locks. It’s not his ice blue eyes or the way he treats children so tenderly that I know he’d be the most amazing father in the world. It’s something inexplicable, particularly strange given the fact that he routinely talks down to me and treats me like I’m less of a person because I don’t hold the same degree he does.
I make excuses for his behavior. Oh, he’s just busy. Oh, he didn’t mean it. Oh, he doesn’t even know he’s doing it. I shouldn’t allow it, but I also have no way of standing up for myself. This job and its paycheck mean everything to me—they’re the means that allowed me to stay away from my parents’ house in a place of my own after I graduated from college.
A place away from the bedroom that looks out over his bedroom.
Staying away from my hometown didn’t just mean getting away from my parents or leaving the past behind me. It also meant I could stop jumping every time I heard a tree branch hit my window, thinking by some miracle he came back for me, thinking he’s tossing a stone near my window like he used to. Thinking maybe I could finally tell him what really happened.
It meant I can move forward.
Except I haven’t.
Part of me wonders if I’ll ever be able to move forward.