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Fractured Love (Off-Limits Romance #3)
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I was sixteen when he came to our house. Landon Jones, a boy with nothing, from nowhere. He had cinnamon hair and blue eyes—light blue, just like mine. When we went out as a family with my foster brother, people asked if Landon was my twin. He wasn’t. That year, we found out how much he wasn’t. When my parents caught us, they threw Landon out like trash.
Now I’m twenty-nine, a soon-to-be surgeon, like my mom and dad. I know residency is going to kick my ass, but I had no idea that it would rip my heart out, too. Not until I see him—Dr. Jones.
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Monday, June 12, 2017
She sits alone at a lime green booth, eating an avocado she sliced open with the hard edge of a spoon. I’m in my spot before she slides into her booth, and so I see her press the spoon against the dark green skin and split the avocado open, pull it apart. I know what she’ll do before she does it—or at least, I think I do.
She goes for the pepper shaker first, taking it from where it stands next to the napkin holder. Pepper first, and then the salt. She stares into space as she chews and swallows, digs into the soft, ripe fruit, and then repeats. I’m some thirty feet away, behind a column painted to look like a tree.
I didn’t bother with the ruse of food.
I watch her push aside the finished shell of peel that held the first half of her snack. She scoops the seed out of the second half and sets it in the empty bowl of peel. Then she digs into the fruit with her spoon once again, at one point bringing her hand to her mouth and straightening a finger. I can’t see her clearly enough to know for sure, but I think she licked it. She should know better than that.
Her flaxen hair is pulled into a ponytail. Sleek, but nothing fancy. Up against the stark white of her coat, her skin looks deeply tanned. I’m too far away to see the freckles strewn across her nose and cheeks, but I assume they’re where they’ve always been.
Truth be told, she looks exactly like I thought she would, right down to the pink and gray sneakers I see underneath her table, and the small, square, multicolored, canvas purse she wears diagonally across her chest.
Once she’s finished with the avocado, she appears to lick her lips, and then she’s staring into space—or at the mom and children at a round table ten or fifteen feet in front of her. Her shoulders look relaxed. Her back is straight, her long legs crossed. She gives no clue she is getting up until she does. Rather than gather the fruit peel to her chest and then stand up, she stands first, lingering over the table for a moment before she reaches over to pick up her trash, as if it’s an afterthought. She confirms my hunch—that she’s distracted—a moment later, when she throws her stainless steel spoon away, along with the fruit peel and her napkin.
Her eyes widen.
She hesitates a moment before turning, walking past a few restaurant-fronts, and disappearing into the sea of people in the vast lobby.
I don’t need to hurry after her—I know where she’s going—but I do. I grab my leather briefcase, toss my coat over one arm, and follow her with long strides.
The bustling lobby is busier than usual, because it’s Wednesday. The outpatient clinics are busiest mid-week. No one wants to come to the hospital Monday or Friday. Not for a planned appointment.
I pass the wide hallway that snakes around the hospital’s right, front quadrant, and head past benches, sculptures, and a long row of check-in and information desks that form a line down the center of the lobby.
The elevator banks are straight ahead, but I’m not going there. I hang a right, down a hall that leads toward the admin offices, and then take the first stairwell I see. My loafers rap softly against the cement stairs—quiet enough that I can hear her Nikes bounce against the stairs above.
I know it’s her.
I know her gait.
I look up into the sliver of space at the middle of the stairwell, and I can see her coat flap, see her ponytail fly, as she climbs. I’m still on the first flight when I hear a door open then shut.
Shortly thereafter, I push through the same third-floor door, coming out beside a water fountain and a large, fake, potted plant. I slip into my coat, pick my briefcase back up, and follow the route I remember from my interview: past the waiting room, the doors to the NCCU, and finally the neurosurgery inpatient check-in desk, using my new ID to get the doors to open.
Once I’m in the neurosurgery inpatient area, I walk past patient rooms, the nurse station—deserted, because they’re changing shifts in Conference Room 1—a restroom, and several patient rooms.
As I near the door to Conference Room 2, I see her dark gold hair, her slender shoulders. Then she’s through it, out of sight.
There’s this moment, as I step into the room behind her, when I feel light and weightless. Like I think a patient must feel during surgery, hovering somewhere near the ceiling. Then I see the face of one of our chief residents, Dr. Dorothy Eilert, and I’m back on solid ground.
She nods at me.