Chad stood in the threshold of the hospital room and watched her for a moment. He could tell from the downturned corners of her mouth that this wasn’t a good day for her. He took a deep breath and entered the room. “Hey sunshine!” He hoped his smile and the bouquet he was extending toward her would make her feel a little better.
Lindsay pasted on a smile that didn’t quite reach her chocolate eyes. She ran her fingers across her wispy bangs, and gave her hair a little shake, hoping the layers of curls would settle into place. Still, she touched it self-consciously as she took in the tall, wavy haired man dressed in a leather bomber that he shrugged out of, now leaving visible a navy sweater that showcased his wide shoulders, thick biceps and jeans that hinted at the muscular thighs beneath. She sighed as she inhaled the scent that was already becoming a familiar one to her, a mixture of spices and sandalwood that made her insides dance. She finally looked up at his face and loved the hint of beard that shadowed his face. It made him look rugged, sexy. She tried to calm her heart beat that imitated the feet of a flamenco dancer.
“You look beautiful,” he murmured as he slid a pastel padded chair behind him so that he could sit close to her.
She reached for the vase of roses and sniffed before she placed them on her side table. “Thanks so much Chad! You didn’t have to use your money for this!” She fussed, all while smiling.
He could tell that she was pleased and that made it okay to him, though if he could, he would have had her room completely filled with flower arrangements of all sorts—smelling like a spring day. But how could he explain something like that? He reached for her hand, “Not having a good day?”
She raised her eyes to his fleetingly before sighing. “No, I keep thinking of all that needs to get done at the Inn and I’m stuck here. Not that location is really the issue,” she said moving her cast before she pursed her lips completely unaware of the effect her moue was having on him. She had no idea how badly he wished that he could pull her into his lap and kiss her cares away.
“What if I have to cancel the first reservations Chad?”
He smiled reassuringly, his deep dimple indenting as his eyes shined brightly. He ran his thumb slowly across the top of her hand. She felt her body clinch in response and awareness lit her eyes. She slowly pulled her hand from his and folded them atop the white chenille blanket.
He leaned back to give her some space and to try to break the moment that had grown thick with awareness between them. He lifted the corners of his mouth into his easy grin. “I thought I asked you not to worry. That’s what you hired me for, right?”
She smiled back, “It’s not…it’s just…well what could you possibly do without me?” Her luminous cognac gaze beseeched him and he found himself having to restrain his earlier impulse. Instead, he swallowed, taking in all of her before leaning forward and gently brushing her wispy bangs from her eyes. Their gazes continued locked. “I know things seem like they’ve taken a turn for the worst, but I do have some good news for you.”
Lindsay raised a perfectly arched eyebrow in surprise. He sighed as he peered into her face that now reminded his of a perfectly baked cinnamon cake, smooth and flawless. He wanted to touch it, taste it—her—all of her.
“Mmm?—oh, the surprise. Well guess who agreed to take the cook position?”
Lindsay narrowed her eyes aware that she hadn’t even advertised for it yet. “Who?”
“From the diner?” Her voice lifted into an excited squeal.
He smiled in response.
“She did?” Lindsay exclaimed as she turned her body so that her head rested on her pillow while she gave him her complete attention. “I…wow! I can’t believe it!”
He watched as her eyes glistened with gratitude. He felt a quick squeeze around his heart. It was brief, nearly imperceptible. It was the second time since he’d met her that it had happened and he remembered because for the past couple of years he’d been completely numb. A silent moment lapsed between them before he cleared his throat and pulled back. “She seems very excited. Well in her own way. She’s a little starchy.” He said before chuckling. “But she said that the town is rooting for you.”
“She did?” Lindsay’s voice was now raspy with emotion and excitement.
Chad hooded his eyes as he became aware of the immediate response his body made to that voice. That voice. Wow! He leaned back and crossed his leg over the thigh of the other. He took a deep breath and then made a point of controlling his breathing. He took in the tousles of curls that played around her face and pillow. He wondered how it would look with him lying beside her. Over her…
Peering closer he could see how fatigue hinted around her eyes. Tinted shadows played beneath them. His years of insight at his patients’ bedside told him that the stress and work she’d been under had finally caught up to her. He hated the reason that she’d ended up here, but there was no doubt she needed to be forced to rest. The doctor had already confirmed he’d be keeping her until the end of the week. He was hoping to accomplish a miracle while praying all along that in doing so, he wouldn’t make her feel incompetent somehow.
He turned his attention back toward her. He decided to run the changes past her to be on the safe side. The afternoon seemed to fly by as they sat and murmured excited decorating ideas past each other. He managed to make her promise not to worry how he’d get it done and they shared a laugh with each other.
He found it funny that despite the fact she’d grown up just above poverty level and he was immersed in wealth, how much they shared in common. She’d been raised with a single mother and he’d been raised in a loving two parent family, all of which he shared while leaving out some details. They each had one sibling, his was a brother for which he confided to have just a little bit of rivalry for. She’d looked surprised. He felt immediate shame. But then she confessed softly, “Me and my sister were like that too. Somehow we were driven apart. After a number of years we managed to clear the air…unfortunately, only a few days later she overdosed on methadone.” Her words hit him hard like a kick to his gonads.
“So I guess the moral to this story Chad is if you can reach out and squash whatever hard feelings are between you and your brother, there’s no time like the present.” She moved her gaze away from his briefly. “What I wouldn’t give to have my sister with me. After all, not everybody gets another chance.” Slowly her gaze shifted now to meet his. Her silent plea resonated deep within him.
“Point taken Linds…I agree. Well I better get going. I’ve kept you from resting today.” He said noticing her eyelids beginning to droop.
She stifled a yawn, “You made today bearable. I don’t really have anyone that I care to bother about something like this.” She said as she played with the edge of her blanket.
He reached his hand out, palm up and waited. She placed her smaller hand within his. “Taking this job has helped me more than you know. Thank you for hiring me Lindsay.” He squeezed her hand briefly before leaning over to kiss her cheek. He heard and felt her inhale sharply. But he ignored it as he brushed his lips across her cheek. “Get some rest Linds,” he said again lapsing into his nickname for her. “Call me if you need anything.” He smiled one last time before leaving.
Lindsay felt bereft of his company as soon as he walked out the door leaving behind his essence in the spicy, manly scent that was him.