I let out a long breath of air when I finally sit down at the computer to do some charting, taking the first small breather since my nightshift started a few hours ago.
I look at the time: 12.30am. A quick look around the ER tells me this might even turn into a small break. We’ve been busy so far, but all of a sudden, it’s unusually quiet for a Friday night. Only a few people sit in the waiting area, none of them seriously ill or injured. But the night has just begun, all the drunks who get into a fight will probably be here in a couple of hours.
A minute later, my colleague and friend, Abby, pulls up a chair next to me. “When were you gonna tell me about you and Dr. Hottie?” she asks with a hint of a smirk on her face.
I give her a look of genuine surprise. “What are you talking about?”
“You and Dr. Robert Jenkins!”
Of course, I know who she is talking about, but I’m still a little confused about what she is insinuating. “What about him?”
Abby rolls her eyes and laughs. “So you’re telling me, you didn’t go on an official date with him?”
“Uh, no. I just accompanied him to that charity event last weekend. Rob’s date had canceled on him last minute, so I filled in.”
An impatient tsk-sound escapes her lips. ”Oh come on, you can’t keep on pretending that nothing is going on between the two of you.”
I snort and give her a look of mock annoyance. “Abby, please, we’re just friends. He’s like a brother to me, and there’s never gonna be more, so stop prying.”
She waves me off. “Fine. But you two would make such a cute couple.”
She laughs at my scolding look. “I want you to be happy, honey. I haven’t seen you with a man in forever.”
“I don’t need a man to be happy.” Especially after my last experience with a guy two months ago. No thank you. I sigh and try to change the subject. ”By the way, you haven’t told me anything about your honeymoon yet. Did you have a good time?”
Abby grins at me widely. Great, subject change worked. “It was amazing! First I thought spending three weeks in the same spot would get boring, but I was wrong.”
I laugh. “If that one spot is one of the most beautiful islands of the Caribbean and next to you is your newlywed husband, I guess it doesn’t get much better than that.”
“So you don’t regret you got married?” I wink at her.
“It’s only been two months. And I work a lot.” She looks at me with a grave expression before we both burst out laughing.
“Hey, ladies, hate to interrupt, but we could kinda use some help over here.”
Abby and I lift our heads, and I suck in a sharp breath at the heavenly sight in front of me. I want to fan myself, but that would be a little silly. No one would blame me if I did, though, because what we are looking at are three gorgeous guys, all well-built, all breathtakingly handsome in their own way, standing at the front desk. You can smell the testosterone that fills the air.
The only thing that disturbs the picture is the blood-stained cloth which one of them presses against his forehead.
I look at the tall one next to him, with the messy brown hair and full beard, and smile. “Oh, hey, Paul!”
I know Paul from his volunteer work at the children’s hospital. He comes in every other weekend and makes music with the kids while they play with Hank, his trained therapy dog. And I think his two friends here are his bandmates. The three of them make music together and are supposedly really awesome. For some reason, I haven’t made it to one of their gigs yet, though.
The guy with the bloody cloth snorts. “Unbelievable. Is there one place in the whole of New York where we can go, and neither of you knows any of the women?”
Paul gives him a shove, which makes him flinch. “Shut up, Jack.” He turns to me. “So, Emma, I’d love to chat some more, but our friend here just won’t stop bleeding.”
With one short look, I make sure Paul’s friend isn’t going to pass out any second. I smile and hand him some forms. “Have a seat and fill these out. I’ll be with you shortly.”
A little while later, I lead the three of them into a small exam room. On our way, I turn to Paul. “How are Tessa and Sam?”
Tessa is his girlfriend, and Sam is her little brother.
“They’re good,” Paul says. “Sam had some trouble with his diabetes over the holidays, but luckily all is back under control.”
“That’s good to hear. Tell them I said hi.”
We enter the exam room, and I point to the examination table. I look for the patient’s name on the form. “Please sit, Mr. Boyd. I’ll have a look at your wound.”
He sits down almost reluctantly while his two friends stand next to us with crossed arms, watching us. “Please, call me Jack. As you’re one of Paul’s friends,” he says with a small sigh.
I smile at him. “Okay, Jack. Could you please remove the cloth so I can see the damage?”
He takes a deep breath before he finally removes the cloth. There’s a deep cut, about two inches long, right above his left eyebrow.
“What happened? You get into a bar fight?” I smile as I get the things I need to clean the cut.
Paul and his friend burst out laughing. Paul shakes his head. “Not really. Poor Jack here was passing by when a guy got pissed at another guy and threw a bottle. Guy two dodged and the bottle hit Jack.”
I nod and stand in front of Jack, who rolls his eyes at his friend. “Okay, I will clean the cut before Dr. Harrison will be here in a minute to stitch you up,” I explain.
Jack grimaces. “Really? Stitches?”
“Yes, that cut is too big for anything else. But don’t worry, I don’t think it’ll leave a scar.”
“That’s not what he’s worried about,” Paul’s other friend, whose name I still don’t know, says.
“Just shut up, Henry.” Jack takes a deep breath as he watches me soak a gauze pad with an antiseptic solution.
“I’ll disinfect the cut. It might sting a little. Close your eyes, please.”
Jack does as he is told. He takes another deep breath, and his whole body tense up when I gently press the gauze pad on his cut. I think he’s even holding his breath and little drops of sweat form on his forehead.
“Are you okay, Jack?” I remove the pad and look at him a little more closely. His eyes are still closed, and when I touch a bruise that forms on his right cheek, he flinches.
Paul chuckles. “Don’t worry, Emma, he’s all right. You’re kinda too close to him for his liking. Don’t take it personally; he doesn’t like to be touched by anyone.”
“Just shut the fuck up, both of you,” Jack grunts, eyes still closed.
I look at Paul with a confused expression before I look back at Jack and realize my legs are touching his knees and I’m generally close to him because I was cleaning the cut. I take a step back and look at his friends. “Maybe you guys should wait outside.”
“What? Why?” Paul looks at me wide-eyed.
“Because you’re talking too much. I can’t concentrate.” I give him a look that should tell him not to challenge me. I know Paul well enough to be sure that he won’t.
“Fine.” Paul and Henry walk out of the exam room, leaving Jack and me in an awkward silence.
I clear my throat. “How—uhm—how are you feeling? Looks like you were hit by a fist as well.” I point to his cheek.
He nods. “Yeah, there was some kind of riot going on, and seemingly I was attracting trouble tonight.”
We’re both silent while I finish cleaning his wound.
“Thanks for that, by the way,” he whispers when I’m done and points to the door.
“You’re welcome.” I smile at him again, which, by the way, he hasn’t returned yet. “As nice as Paul is, he can be just as annoying.”
“Yeah, both of them can be quite annoying. But Paul is right. Don’t take it personally. I do have a problem with anyone invading my personal space.”
I nod and take another step back to show him it’s all right. It doesn’t mean I don’t wonder why though. But I guess there’s no use asking him about the reasons. I don’t know what it is about him that’s so intriguing, but I find myself being bizarrely attracted to him. There’s something about his brooding nature that calls to me. Must be my nurse’s helper syndrome. But to my defense, he’s also really handsome. He has light brown short hair but still long enough to run your fingers through. His eyes are a warm chocolaty color, and in my head, I can hear the sound my nails would make if I scraped his five o’clock shadow. A tribal half-sleeve tattoo covers his left upper arm and possibly parts of his pecs as far as I can tell when I lift the sleeve of his t-shirt so I can put the blood pressure cuff on his arm. Damn, he’s hot.
Fucking shit! Someone stop me, please!
Luckily, Dr. Harrison walks in before I can question my sanity any further and I start to undress him mentally.
After some initial questioning, Dr. Harrison stitches Jack up in no time. While he does, I watch Jack more closely again. He’s just as tense as he was when I was standing in front of him and only relaxes once Dr. Harrison takes a few steps back.
“Okay, Mr. Boyd,” he says. “All done. If I understood correctly from what you’ve told me, you took quite the blow to your head.” He checks Jack’s pupillary light reflex. “How are you feeling? Any dizziness? Headache? Nausea?”
Jack shrugs. “A little bit of all of that.”
“You might have a concussion, which means you should be under medical surveillance at least for the rest of the night.”
Jack groans. “You mean I have to stay here?”
“Just until the morning. Emma here will tell you everything you need to know.” He looks at me, and I nod before he says goodbye, leaving Jack and me in an awkward silence yet again.
And again, I have to clear my throat before I speak. “So, uhm—if you stay, I can arrange a room for you down here.” Yup, totally no selfish reasons involved to ignore the usual procedure and keep him close instead of sending him off to another ward where he’ll be under just as competent medical surveillance. “I’ll check on you hourly at first and after that, every two hours to make sure there aren’t any signs of a cerebral hemorrhage. Brain bleeding,” I add when he gives me a funny look. “Any questions so far?”
“Is this really necessary?” He sighs and runs his fingers through his hair just like I imagined it earlier, and I find myself watching him like some creepy nutcase. Why can’t I stop thinking about running my fingers through his hair? Dammit, Emma! What the fuck?
“Uhm–” He probably thinks I have a cold considering how often I have to clear my throat. “If you don’t want to stay, we can’t make you. But it would be better if you weren’t alone tonight.”
For some reason, I hope he won’t say he’s going home to his girlfriend, who will take care of him.
Jack seems to be weighing his options before he looks at me with hooded eyes. I can see the exhaustion on his face, and I already feel bad knowing if he decided to stay, I’d have to wake him up so often.
Again I wonder what it is about him that draws me in. Shit, I have to remember to stay away from guys like him. Because he sure seems like trouble.
Finally, Jack lets out a long and heavy sigh. “Fine. I’ll stay.”