“I wish my doctor’s office had had a teen clinic when I was a kid,” she said. “I always remember feeling so grumpy about still going to a pediatrician when I was a teenager, surrounded by babies and toddlers.”
She took another sip of wine and picked a piece of lint off of his shoulder. He felt lulled by her touch, the warm night air, by her presence.
And also probably the wine.
She stood up to get the bottle of wine from the fridge and brought it back over to the couch.
“You said you’d only been there for six months—where were you before that?”
She tipped the wine bottle toward his glass and raised her eyebrows at him. He nodded. Was she trying to get him to linger? Had the whole “I’m afraid of my ex” thing just been bullshit to get him to come up to her apartment? Would he care if that was the case? He grinned to himself. Would he care if a hot girl made up a story about being scared of her ex-boyfriend to get him up to her apartment? Hell no, he would not care.
“I was at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital on the Westside. I liked working there a lot, but this job is different from what I’d been doing there, and it’s a lot of fun. Plus, it was great to come back to the Eastside and be closer to my family.”
But wait. He didn’t know this girl that well, but from his few interactions with her, she seemed pretty forthright and honest, almost to a fault. He didn’t really think she’d make up a story if she wanted him in her apartment. She would just ask him if he wanted to come upstairs.
Plus, if someone was pretending to be scared, they would have acted much more scared than she did when they walked in. She hadn’t been clingy or crying or any of that stuff. She’d just looked tense and angry. And she even hadn’t hinted for him to come over; he’d been the one to offer.
“I spend so much time with L.A. people who are from somewhere else; it’s always fun to meet a real local,” she said. “Do you have a big family?”
He rested his hand on the couch, right by, but not on, her knee.
“Yes and no—it’s a big extended family, but Angie’s my only sibling. But we grew up right around the corner from my mom’s sister, Tia Eva, and her daughter, my cousin Jessica, who is basically like a sister to me. She’s the one I told you about at the bar who I got the ‘Is that you?’ idea from.” He smiled. “That’s another reason why this was a good time to move back to the Eastside; Jessie’s pregnant now with her first kid, and my whole family is over the moon.”
She tucked her hair behind her ears and looked up at him. He liked the way she concentrated on him when he was talking, like she was really listening to what he had to say.
He also liked the way the neckline of her shirt kept dipping lower and lower. He had to force himself to not let his eyes linger for too long on her cleavage.
“Are you over the moon about the baby, too?”
Her shirt dipped off one shoulder. He really wanted to reach over and push it off all the way. It took him a minute to remember what she’d asked him. Right, right, Jessie’s baby.
“Oh yeah, definitely. You’d think that after being a pediatrician for years now I’d think babies are a dime a dozen, but I can’t wait until Jessie has hers. Not that I’m ready in the least to have one of my own, but that’s what’s going to make Jessie’s so fun. Being an uncle is going to be great. All of the fun and none of the responsibility.” He laughed. “Plus, this way, my mom will get off my ass about giving her grandbabies because she’ll have Jessie’s baby to hang out with.”
She looked at him sideways.
“Or, she’ll be on your ass even more because she’ll be so excited about the one baby that she’ll want more.”
He held his finger up to her lips.
“Shhhhh, don’t say that. She knows it’s going to be a long time before that happens. I have too many other people to take care of right now. I’m just glad that I’m back on the Eastside. I can be closer when the baby is born, as well as for things like killing spiders—real and imaginary—late at night for Angela.”
She took the last sip of her wine and smiled at him.
“She’s lucky she has you. I was lucky that I had you around tonight, too.” She sat up straight and put her feet on the floor. “Do you have to be at work super early in the morning? It’s getting late.”
That sure sounded like his cue to go. Damn it. He looked at his watch and barely noticed what it said.
“It’s getting pretty close to my bedtime.” He put his hand on her arm. “Are you going to be okay tonight?”
Her eyes shot to the door, but she nodded anyway.
“Of course. I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me.”
He’d been on the point of standing up. Instead, he settled back down on the couch.
“Well, when you say it like that, I’m worried about you. Do you want me to . . .” He was going to say, “Do you want me to stay?” but that sounded like he was inviting himself into her bed. And while he’d love to get an invitation there, he didn’t want to look like even more of an asshole than he already had tonight. “Do you want me to stay until one of your friends can get here?”
“I feel ridiculous even thinking about doing that, but . . . maybe. Courtney has to be up at the crack of dawn, so I don’t want to call her. I can call Dana, though. I don’t think she’s filming tomorrow. Oh God, that reminds me! Instagram!” She pulled her phone out of her pocket.
He had no idea what the hell that meant in this context.
“Instagram?” he asked.
“Fisher Instagrams his whole life, for ‘branding’ and his fans or whatever. If he’s updated in the last few hours or so, at least I’ll know what he’s up to.”
She typed something into the search bar on her phone while she talked.
“I blocked him on everything, so he can’t contact me, but if I’m logged out, I can still see . . . oh my God, Carlos. Look at this! He’s in Vegas!”
She turned her phone around so he could see the video of Fisher dancing terribly at some club. He let out a shout of laughter.
“Wow.” He scooted closer to her so they could both watch. My God, she smelled good. He wanted to stay this close to her on the couch for a long time. “Is this guy for real? Play it again.”
She played his video four or five more times, and they laughed harder every time.
“This is almost as good as the middle-finger ring picture,” she said, still laughing.
He raised his eyebrows at her.
“What middle-finger ring picture?”
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I didn’t show you. You and Angela left before we looked at his texts. Look at this picture he sent me.”
She scrolled through her phone and pulled up a photo of a blurry middle finger with a blue engagement ring on it. He recoiled.
“Oh my God. He seriously texted you this?”
As she’d scrolled to the photo, he’d seen flashes of a few of the texts Fisher had sent her after the proposal. That fucking bastard.
“I know. I know.” She was still looking at the photo, and not at him. “You don’t have to say anything. I have terrible judgment in men; we all know that now, but this is really incredible, right?”
He stood up. He was glad for her that Fisher was out of town, but now he had no more excuses to stay here.
“It’s so incredible that I need to go home now to process that. And also because I have to be up, awake, and ready for patients at eight thirty a.m. tomorrow.”
She walked him to the door.
“Sorry for keeping you up, and thanks again.”
She reached out to hug him, and he pulled her in tight. Her body nestled up against his felt so good. He wanted to hold on for much longer and forced himself to let go.
“Glad I could be here. Good night. And if you want to stack a chair behind that door after I leave, feel free. No one will know about it but you.”
She laughed and reached up to kiss him on the cheek.
“I just might do that, thanks.”
. . . . . . .
Nik shut the door behind Carlos and closed her eyes.
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