(unedited. subject to change)
I turned away from her, glad for the little bit of camouflage my lab coat provided as I strode away. As I approached the nurse’s station, I noticed a man in a suit standing there with flowers in his hand, and immediately assumed he was waiting for one of our patients, a pregnant wife or girlfriend, as a surprise.
“Malcolm? What are you doing here?”
I glanced behind me as Devyn approached, eyes wide. My eyebrows drew together in a frown as she walked up to the wannabe-GQ-motherfucker with the – damn, they weren’t from the grocery store – flowers, with a distinct air of familiarity.
“Malcolm’s” face spread into a smile, and a quiet chorus of sighs happened to the left of me. I looked over to see Nurse Hall, Aviva, and a few other nurses playing captive audience for this little show. “I was here to check in with a colleague, so I thought I’d drop in to see you.”
“Oh. Um, thank you,” she said, accepting the flowers from his hands.
“Also… I wanted to see what you would be doing later tonight? I’d love your company for dinner again.”
My eyes narrowed a little over his request, and then a little further at the expression on Dev—shit. The expression on Nurse Echols’ face.
“Can’t,” I injected, and a second later, all eyes were on me. “Nurse Echols will be here at the hospital, working.”
Devyn frowned. “I will?”
From beside me, Aviva spoke as well. “Yeah… she will?”
“She will,” I said firmly, not even understanding for myself why I was pulling this out of my ass. “I’m the resident on the floor tonight, and you’re supposed to be observing. I’m not sure how you can observe from somewhere else.”
Devyn’s top lip curled just slightly at me before she tempered her expression down, back into the cool neutral she’s been wearing for our patients. “Okay. I’ll be here.”
“Good. You and your boyfriend can go talk now since it’s lunch time, but otherwise, social visits are a distraction from work.”
If looks could kill, my brothers would be planning my funeral, based on the venom shooting from Nurse Echols’ eyes. I gave her a wry smile, and then turned to head for my office, looking up when Aviva called my name as I strode down the hall.
“What the hell was that?” she asked, catching up to me.
“No idea what you’re talking about, Vi. Ouch!” I pulled away from her, rubbing the spot on my arm where she’d just pinched me. “What was that for?!”
“For acting like you don’t know what I’m talking about.”
Aviva was tiny – at least a full foot shorter than me – with a baby bump protruding from her slender body like a basketball. Even with those two things working against her, she was capable of doing real damage.
“I don’t,” I said, dodging her when she tried to pinch me again. “You know visitors aren’t supposed to be hanging around the nurse’s station.”
Aviva shrugged. “But he was handsome, and had flowers. I didn’t even know Devyn was dating anybody, so when he came back here of course I wasn’t going to turn him away. It was sweet.”
“It was against protocol.”
“Because you’re mad she has a man.”
I immediately started sputtering, damn near tripping over my own tongue to deny it, but I couldn’t. I was annoyed by the presence of a man in her life.
And why wouldn’t there be?
Devyn was an attractive woman. Smart, successful. Just because there was no ring on her finger, that didn’t mean she was as uninvolved as I’d assumed.
Or not assumed.
To be frank, I hadn’t given the possibility of Devyn having a man any thought at all. When she entered my mind, in nothing but those heels and a lab coat, I was thinking about one thing – her. And yet, this “Malcolm” dude honestly did have me bothered.
I had to shake this shit off.
Clearing my throat, I faced Aviva head on, meeting her eyes. “I have no reason to be pissed about her having a man. I don’t date coworkers, so even if she didn’t, nothing was happening there anyway.”
She smiled. “If you say so. I just know that in all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never seen… this.”
“Yes, this,” she said, waving a hand in my direction. “When I pushed you to hire her, I thought we were going to take her under our wing, nurture her into a colleague we could depend on. Embrace her. Instead, your ass is hazing her… since you won’t touch her.”
“That’s not true.”
Aviva laughed. “What’s not true? Are you not thirty-four years old, picking on a girl because you like her? It’s been too long since you’ve had a girlfriend, Joey. You’re devolving back to middle school.”
“Damn, Vi!” I said, clutching my chest. “That hurts.”
“Truth does that sometimes,” she giggled, then stepped away to head in the opposite direction. “Get some ass, Joseph. So you can stop taking out your sexual frustration on our intern.”