Lucas entered the clinic with a bouquet of lilies. The last two times he came for shots he got Vera, the perky Asian nurse with the heart-shaped face. He set the flowers on the counter. He rubbed his itchy nose and suppressed a sneeze.
A middle-aged Indian nurse waved her finger at him. “Can’t you read the signs? No fragrances in the waiting room.”
“These are for Miss Torres.” Lucas extended his hand. “Is she working today?”
“I can’t talk about our employees’ schedules.” The nurse guided Lucas across the hallway. “You may leave these with Carmen.”
The sign next to the counter said Bariatrics. A receptionist spoke Spanish into the phone. She hung up and turned toward Lucas. “Ah, for me again?”
Lucas looked from the Indian nurse to the receptionist. “Have you seen Miss Torres?”
The receptionist smiled brightly. “I’m Carmen. These flowers are lovely. I’ll hold them for her.”
“Can you be sure she gets them? There’s a personal note.” Lucas set the vase down. A flower stem fell behind the counter.
“I’ll get it.” Carmen scooted her rolling chair away from her desk.
Lucas looked over the edge to point to the dropped flower. Three displays of dried flowers lay underneath the table with the cards unopened. No wonder she never called or texted him.
Carmen picked up the stem and tucked it in place, humming a tune and ignoring him. Lucas’ face heated. He’d been wasting his time. He shouldn’t have played that stupid choking trick on her.
He strode out of the waiting room. Was he not good enough for her? He’d let beauty sway him again—big brown eyes, slender eyebrows, pouty lips and a creamy complexion. So pretty, but white; although he didn’t get the vibe she’d be biased.
“Mr. Knight, your appointment?” the Indian nurse called after him.
He walked faster toward the exit and plowed into a woman coming around the corner. The tray of vials she was carrying dropped onto the carpet, scattering the vials across the hallway.
“I’m so sorry.” Lucas bent to pick them up and bumped her head with his jaw.
“Ow!” It was Maryanne Torres. “You made me drop all the allergy shots.”
“Sorry. I’ll help you.” He handed them to her, and she fitted them in the marked slots.
“You’re here for your shots?” she asked.
“I was, but something came up.” He avoided her gaze.
She finished tucking all the vials in place. “Will you be by later? You can’t miss a week, or you’ll have to start over.”
“Let me get it.” He picked up the tray. “Are you okay?”
A smile swept her face. “I was fine until a certain klutz barreled into me.”
“Sorry.” He followed her through the waiting room.
“No apologies needed. Why don’t you take a seat and I’ll call you after I put these in the refrigerator.” She took the tray from him and went through the staff door, glancing back right before the door closed.
Lucas took a seat at the far side of the clinic. His heart thumped and his palms were moist. A twenty-eight year old man acting like a star-struck adolescent was utterly ridiculous. But Maryanne’s smile was warm, and she appeared friendly.
She called his name and he stepped into the clinic. This time, he wore a short-sleeved shirt so he wouldn’t have to pull off his shirt to access his upper arms.
Maryanne waved him to her station. He wanted to say something witty or funny, but the words wouldn’t come. She hadn’t acknowledged the flowers, and he didn’t want to say anything he’d regret later.
She handed him the peak-flow meter to measure his airflow, and he blew the indicator to the top—twelve hundred.
“You know we have some patients who can barely blow three hundred?” She stuck a syringe into the top of a vial and tapped it.
He presented his right arm. “Well I don’t know why I have to blow this thing.”
“You sound like you’re having a bad day.” Her eyebrows creased as if she were concerned.
“I bumped into you, and…”
“Oh! And I’m definitely the last nurse you wanted to poke you today.”
“No, you’re fine.” He held out his arm, and she rubbed it with alcohol before inflicting a sharp stinging burn.
She pulled out the syringe and dropped the needle into the medical waste container. “Don’t tell me you’re feeling bad about knocking down my vials.”
“It’s not that. I… uh, brought you flowers, but… I guess you don’t want them. I’m sorry.”
She dabbed his arm. “I’m not sure what you’re trying to do.”
“I’m sorry about the stunt I pulled to get your attention. I don’t know what got into me.”
She injected him again. “You embarrassed me. I’m not some kind of joke. I’m a professional, a nurse.”
“I respect you.” He pressed a tissue to clot the blood. The adrenaline in his veins stung along with the shot.
“You do?” Her eyes flashed, so lovely and lethal. “I worked hard to get my degree and earn a spot on this team. My boss was upset about the flowers.”
“You didn’t even read the notes.”
He pushed up his sleeve. Vera walked by and beckoned for his attention. “She likes chocolates.”
Maryanne filled another syringe. “Cats and dogs. It’s a pity, you can’t have any pets.”
“No time with my training schedule and work.”
“Work? What do you do?”
“I’m a special education coach. I train kids for the Special Olympics and teach swimming.”
She set the syringe down and looked into his eyes. “That’s really something. Do you enjoy working with them?”
“Yeah.” He couldn’t help smiling. “The small victories add up, and they’re always so enthusiastic. When you help them achieve a goal, it’s like you’re on top of Mt. Everest.”
“I’d like to hear more about what you do.” Her gaze lingered on him while she drew the last shot. “My break’s coming up.”
It felt like the needle barely pricked him. His confidence rose with his pulse, and he took a deep breath. “I’ll be in the waiting room, Miss Torres.”
“Maryanne.” Her cheeks dimpled. “Bring me the notes and meet me at the exit.”
Lucas rushed across the hall to Bariatrics, surprising Carmen who was sniffing the lilies.
“I found Maryanne,” he announced. “And she wants the cards.”
Carmen batted her eyelashes. “Trust me, I’m much more fun, and I cook better.”
Lucas swallowed his words. Judging from her hips, she probably did make a mean tamale. He picked the note card off the lilies. “Can I get the notes from the other bouquets?”
She hefted herself from the chair and bent below the table, tearing the envelopes off the plastic holders. “Here you go. And here’s my card. Good luck with Maryanne. You won’t get far.”
Carmen looked left and then right. The only people in the room were patients playing with their electronic gadgets. She bent closer and cupped her hand to one side of her mouth. “Rumor has it she’s sworn off sex. She and Vera, the Filipino nurse, have a bet. First one to fall off the wagon buys the other one a three-day weekend at a spa.”
No wonder she was so prickly. Lucas peered across the hall at the Allergy clinic. “How long do they plan on keeping it going?”
“Until one of them scores a marriage proposal, with an engagement ring and a set date. Remember who tipped you off.” She slipped her card into his back pocket and gave him a pat on his behind.
“There you are,” Maryanne glided through the opening to the Bariatrics waiting area and stopped with one hand propped on her hip.
“Bye, you two have fun.” Carmen’s voice sing-songed after them.
Lucas mumbled a goodbye and followed Maryanne to the hallway.
Her mouth twisted into a half-smile, half-grimace. “Were you flirting with her?”
“Does it bother you?” He handed her the notes. “You were giving me the cold shoulder.”
She sashayed in front of him. “You want cold? I’ll treat you to an iced cappuccino.”
So, she thought she had competition. While she ordered the drinks, he texted an order of Lady Godiva’s to be delivered to the Allergy Clinic. After adding a few balloons to brighten the treat, his day was definitely looking up.[Start] [Previous Scene] [Next Scene - Dec 27]
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Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary Romance