Mallory jumped down and opened the cabinet, finding rows of cans. “Yum, beef stew. This is your lucky night, girl.” She opened it and let half fall into her bowl and returned to her sandwich.
Looking around, one would think a Marine lived here. He must hate being at her house with all the dust and messiness of books and clothes. But he never said one word when he could have so many times.
He returned, eyeing the plates. “All set. Should be nice and comfy.” He had changed out of
his scrubs and into gray sweat shorts and a white T-shirt, contouring every bulging muscle.
Dragging her eyes back up to his, she said, “Thanks for having me here. I’d probably die of sweat.” She bit into her sandwich, smiling.
He poured them iced tea and sat, devouring his sandwich. “You might want to throw out some of your food if it doesn’t go on soon.”
“Right. It doesn’t usually stay out too long. I hope I don’t have to do that.”
“This is delicious. Thank you. I forgot how hungry I was.”
“You’re welcome.” She walked to the spotless stainless steel sink and washed her plate. Fighting off another yawn, she washed her glass and put the dishes away.
“Go lie down. You don’t have to stay here with me. I know you’re tired.”
“No, I’ll wait.”
“Please, just go and change.”
She wiped her hands with the dishtowel. “Okay. Where’s your bathroom?”
“There’s one down the hall and one upstairs in my room. Choice is yours.”
She found the hallway one, but she decided to go upstairs to check out his room. Was it as clean as the rest of the house? As she stepped into it, the answer was clear. Neatly made-up bed, shiny dressers, vacuumed rugs.
In the bathroom, she was again disgusted with the hotel cleanliness. Did he have a maid service? Then she found her answer. A note with scrawled girly handwriting left on the sink counter.
Pushing it aside without wanting to read it, she wiggled out of her clothes and into her gown. Brushed her hair, washed her face, eyes shifting to the note, back to the mirror, brushed her teeth. None of her business.
After she used the bathroom, she washed her hands and glanced at the note. To hell with it. He left it there, didn’t he? Could have put it away. Or maybe he didn’t know it was there. She dried off her hands and slid the note closer to her.
I hope you like my cleaning. I noticed you were out all night and today so thought I’d help you out. I gave extra special attention to your bed, as that’s where it was always messed up the most. Remember? I miss you…us. I know you don’t want anything more, but I still have feelings for you. We’ve dated for—what, three months and now you’re done with me? I don’t get it. What did I do wrong? I can take when you’re distant because I respect your space or even when you don’t talk much, but I thought our last night was good. And now nothing?
I hope you don’t mind me using the key under the flowerpot. I’m just confused. I’ve heard rumors you’re leaving Sadie at Mallory’s house? I’ve offered many times to watch her. I’m positive you don’t have a thing for her because you’ve always said you wished you’d never met her. Anyway, I just want another chance. I know you could love me if you just let me in. I miss your touch. You’re the only one who knows how to satisfy me, even if it’s without emotion. I’ll take you any way I can get you. If you give me that chance, I’ll make you fall in love with me. I even left Dr. Fenton for you, and he wants to marry me. Help me make that decision.
Hope to see you soon, maybe in the OR, maybe sooner. Call me.
P.S. I left a little something under your pillow.
Under his pillow? Not looking. She knew Sammy—a tall redhead who was good at her job. She also fought off advances from every married doctor in the unit and even the coordinators. And she was in love with Gallagher.
Did Gallagher run when the love was handed to him? Did he not want it in any shape or form? Was he that comfortable with his bachelor status and being free? Well, she didn’t need to worry about that. He didn’t need to worry about her throwing herself at him. She’d tuck any stirring feelings she was beginning to develop way down deep.
But she did wonder about the pillow.
She opened the door and glided to the bed, chewing her lip.
“Everything okay up there?” he asked.
“Yeah, just finishing up.”
“Thought I needed to send a search party.”
She laughed. “Nope. I’m good.” She reached out for the pillow and screamed when he stepped into the room. “Jesus, you scared me.”
“Have a pillow fetish, McShane?” He took notice of her gown.
“No.” She laughed.
In a continued controlled voice, he said, “Why so nervous? Did I catch you doing something…naughty?” He gave a wicked grin as he walked to the bathroom and turned off the light she left on.
“No. I thought I saw a bug. Next time I’ll leave it to crawl on you, okay?” She smirked and moved past him, her arm brushing his.
“I appreciate that. I don’t think you’ll find bugs here, though.” He dusted off his pillow.
Her eyes drifted to his hand. “Just making sure?” She wanted to laugh at the sliver of fear she incited in him.
“No.” He laughed and shook his head. “Now get to bed.”
“What is that scent you wear? I smell it all the time.”
“Why? Like it?” His grin widened.
“Just what is it?”
“I think it’s called Dark Obsession.”
“I’ve smelled that before on other men. It doesn’t smell the same.”
“Oh, really? And what does it smell like on me?”
“I’ll be sure to wear it all the time around you then.”
“Go ahead. Doesn’t affect me a bit.”
He strode to her in two steps. “It doesn’t?”
Her lips parted as her body reacted to his closeness…and that scent. And then she remembered the letter and what he had said about her. “Nope. Doesn’t do a thing for me. Besides, another woman probably gave it to you for all your…services.”
“Actually, it came from my sister. You’d like her.”
“Oh.” She stared up into his eyes before a sound burst behind them.
Sadie traipsed through the door and jumped up onto the bed, finding her space at the foot board.
“Should probably get to bed, McShane.”
She backed away and headed toward the door. “Yes, sir.” She rubbed the goosebumps on her arms. “You’re lucky you have central air. One of these days I’ll have it put in.” She exited through the door, still looking at him.
“Doesn’t take long to have it installed.”
“Yeah, I might have Lance do it since he does it on the side.”
“The hell you will. I’ll study it on YouTube if I have to.”
She laughed. “You don’t like him, do you?”
“The guy’s a snake. He’ll install it for you and next thing you know, he’ll be in your bed.”
“Like someone else I know? Weren’t you in my bed the other night?”
“That was different. I kept my distance, even if it killed me. He wouldn’t.” He sat on his bed, his legs splayed apart, distracting her.
“It killed you?” A smile played on her lips, sending a shiver through her.
He tilted his head. “What do you think?”
A serious look came over her then. “I think you need to do some reading.”
“Yeah. Bathroom reading. I think it kills you in the beginning of a relationship, wanting someone so bad, but once you get them, poof—it’s over for you. Once you get their love, you get bored and move on. That’s what I think.”
He stood, heading toward his bathroom. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m tired. See you in the morning, Gallagher.”
He swallowed hard and stared at her.
She paused in the hallway, listening for him, guilt crashing over her. The bathroom light flipped on.
Taking the steps two at a time, she found the made-up couch and crushed her body inside the softness of the blankets. She wondered if he’d read it, what he’d feel, and would it make him want another chance with Sammy? Would he look around and be so grateful for her cleaning his home and being a good little wife that he’d call her?
Shrugging, she turned over and closed her burning eyes.
After tossing and turning for a couple hours and sleeping on and off, she turned to find Gallagher sitting on the edge of the coffee table, watching her. At first, all she saw was a dark silhouette
Her eyes widened. “Gallagher?” She pulled herself up, rubbing her eyes. “You scared me.” She held her hand over heart to quiet it.
“Sorry. I did some bathroom reading, as you suggested. Do you think I wanted her like that in the beginning? I didn’t. She wouldn’t leave me alone.”
“You don’t have to explain to me.” But the look on his face was somber and made her want to be there for him.
“I want to. Did I date a lot of women? Yes. She was one of them. I thought we were just having fun, but then she started talking marriage and I mentally bolted. She knew the deal. They all did. But she wouldn’t let it go. When she started telling me she loved me, I just wanted out. It’s not usually my thing.”
“Believe me, I know.”
“And that part about how I had said I wished I never met you? That was true, I did say that but not in the context she’d made it sound. She probably knew you’d come here, had feared it, and wrote that letter knowing you’d see it. She’s jealous of you, McShane.”
“But why? We don’t date. We work together. You work with a lot of the coordinators.”
He took her hand in his. “I had said I wished I never met you after I had been with her…sexually.”
Her eyes popped open, bringing her fully alert. “What?”
He nodded. “I know. It’s as horrible as it sounds.”
“What happened? Did she question you?”
“She asked who I was talking about, but she knew. When I got up to get dressed, I said Mallory McShane. She stood and slapped me so hard I thought my head would spin off.”
“I know it’s a terrible thing to realize when you’re getting it on with another person, but I was angry at you. Angry for what you were putting me through. I had always kept my distance from you or kept the ribbing going to make you hate me. I knew if I allowed myself to get close to you, that’d be it for me.” He kissed her hands.
“But why? I’m not some gorgeous vixen. I’m Mallory Ice McShane.” His lips on her skin were doing delicious things to her body, curling her toes into the plush carpet, involuntarily parting her thighs. Her body wanted more than his lips on her hands.
“You’re more than that to me. You have to know that by now. If my acting like a schoolboy fool around you doesn’t show it, then I don’t know what would. And I deliberately acted like that with those women so they’d never get the wrong idea. With you, I’m the real me.”
“You acted that way on purpose? Jeez, Gallagher, I just thought you were a natural prick.” She smiled.
She snickered. “Yeah, that too.” She held his hands in hers and looked into his eyes. “There are things you don’t know about me. I can’t give you what you’d get from those other women, from Sammy who is willing and able. I made a promise to someone…”
“Yes, Scott. A story I’ll tell you sometime, but for now…” She shrugged.
“Maybe I don’t want more. I’m Wolf, remember? If all you’re saying is fun, then I’m game. I’m in. I’m your man.”
“But you’ll never be able to be my man.” Her voice cracked, feeling ridiculous. Would Scott even know? She’d know, and that was all that mattered.
“Come to bed with me.”
She raised her brows and smirked.
“I just want to hold you. If anything happens, it’s up to you. I loved our time in your bed, every moment. And I never thought I’d say something like that to a woman, especially when no sex happened. It was nice.” He kissed her fingertips.
She grabbed her pillow.
“Leave it. I have a few of those in my bed.” He grinned.
“Speaking of…what did Sammy put under it?”
“That’s for me to know, Ms. Nosy Pants.”
“Oh, I see.” She stood, fixing her gown as it twisted around her legs. “I have my secrets so you’ll have yours. Got it.” She took his extended hand and let him guide her upstairs.
“Yep. I need some mystery.”
“Oh, you’re a whole lot of mystery, buddy. No worries there.”
He laughed and ran up the stairs like a teenager, holding his girlfriend’s hand and sneaking into his room while his parents slept.