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"WANNA PLAY DOCTOR?"
Bryan Booker looked up from his computer and froze. Now that the latest agency temp had his attention, the woman gave him a smile impossible to misinterpret and sashayed over to his desk. She perched on the edge, fingering the stapler with suggestive strokes while she gave him another come–get–me glance.
"I thought maybe I'd stay and keep you company this evening. I'm sure we could…get some things done." She leaned closer, until her top gaped and he got an in–your–face view down the V–necked smock to her Victoria's Secret bra.
He swallowed a sigh. The fact he knew what brand of underwear she wore by sight alone was certainly indication that he knew too much about women's lingerie—and not enough about hiring employees. "Tricia—"
"You're not looking up porn sites, are you?" Her tone chided, but her salacious expression stated all too clearly she wished he were.
Bryan forced a tired smile. "Just e–mailing my parents. They're touring Europe for their fortieth anniversary."
"How romantic." Tricia leaned over even more and began to caress his arm. "Bryan, I was wondering…would you like to have dinner with me? I know you said we had to keep it all business during office hours, and I understand because of what a stick–inthe–mud Janice is, but she's not here, we're officially closed—" she almost purred the words
"—and I bought something special today at lunch that I would love to show you."
Frowning, Bryan carefully plucked her hand from his arm and got to his feet. In response, Tricia lowered the leg she had crossed, leaving him plentyof room to step between if he so chose, but instead he grasped her wrist and tugged her off the desk.
After the invitation she'd just tossed out, she probably thought he was about to lead her upstairs to his apartment. He turned down the hall toward the reception area and waiting room, stopping in his tracks once he spotted the mess Tricia had neglected to clean up. A desk was under there somewhere.
"You didn't get the filing done?" he asked needlessly, pained at the sight of all the work he'd have to sort through before reopening his doors on Monday. he'd wanted to spend the weekend with his granddad, maybe take him out for a drive in the convertible since the weather was supposed to be mild. That wouldn't be happening now.
"No, not exactly. Between the patients and phones, and those horribly written notes you expect me to transcribe, I didn't have time. But…how about you let me make it up to you another way?" Her palms found his shoulders and she pressed her ample breasts against his chest. "I promise you'll like what I have in mind."
"You took a two–hour lunch." The results of which were contained in a pink Victoria's Secret bag sitting beside her purse. The knowledge that the nearest store was an hour away brought to mind his hellish afternoon of trying to keep up with patients, files and phones instead of the sensual pleasures advertised so prettily.
"You missed me?" Her smile widened, and seconds later she held a handful of gauzy fluff. "It wasn't easy making a decision in such a rush," she murmured before holding it up in front of her. She bit her lower lip before sliding him a coy glance.
"Come on, Bryan, say something. Do you like it?"
He frowned again. "Tricia, I meant what I said about keeping relationships professional in this office."
Tricia's otherwise pretty features pinched into a series of lines and grooves. "That wasn't just for Janice's benefit?"
"No. You left me high and dry while you shopped, and you didn't return when you were supposed to, knowing Janice wasn't here to pitch in and cover for you."
His full–time R.N. had become a grandmother as of two o'clock that morning. A preacher's wife, Janice had been married nearly as long as he'd been alive, but she was feisty and fun, and he didn't have to worry about her coming on to him—or flashing him her lingerie. Janice's timing sucked, though, because she'd requested two full weeks of vacation to help her daughter get back on her feet after giving birth. Vacation that had begun this morning.
"I'm sorry about today, Bryan. Really." She wet her lips. "Forgive me?"
Firming his hold on Tricia's elbow, he grabbed her belongings from atop the mess and headed for the door. "Tricia, I appreciate the, uh, effort, but I don't think you're quite right for the job as my office manager."
"I'll call Sierra and let her know I won't be needing your services any longer, but thank you for your time and hard work this week."
She placed a hand on his chest and dug in her heels, stopping their progress. "But, Bryan, I can make you feel soooo much better about your breakup with Holly."
She was attractive, no doubt about it, but he wasn't interested. Because he needed help with filing? Bryan bit back the curses on the tip of his tongue and escorted her the last two steps. "For the record, there was no breakup. Holly and I never dated exclusively." He shoved the items he held at Tricia before opening the door and gently but firmly pressing a hand between her shoulder blades to urge her outside.
Tricia blinked as if she'd only just realized her surroundings. On her face disappointment warred with fury, and her pink–coated lips peeled back in a grimace. "You mean…that's it?"
"'Fraid so. Take care of yourself and be careful driving home."
Her mouth dropped open, and her chest rose and lowered rapidly in agitation. "You're firing me and turning me down?"
He couldn't quite believe it himself. Bryan eyed the negligee in her hand, but not a single flicker of desire stirred within him. "Don't take it personally."
Tricia stood for a moment, huffing and puffing and visibly shocked that he'd said no to her considerable charms. Her mouth snapped closed, opened again and then she released an outraged shriek that rivaled any child who didn't want a needle before she stalked off toward her car. Bryan watched her go. How had life come down to scenes such as these?
He shook his head and was about to return to his computer when he noticed his neighbor standing on her porch not fifteen feet away. She snickered behind the hand covering her mouth.
That was the problem with his practice. Located between two occupied homes, his patients didn't have any privacy.
And neither did he. "Glad I could add a little amusement to your day, Ellen."
Tricia left the lot, tires squealing, and the act incited another round of laughter from the Taylorsville social worker, this one louder than the first since she no longer made an effort to disguise her amusement. Tears trickled from Ellen's eyes, and she nearly dropped the box she held clutched to her front in her bid to wipe them away.
Reluctant, Bryan jogged down the wheelchair ramp and over to her porch to take it from her. "Where to?"
"There." She waved a hand to where her car was parked, trunk open. "Oh, my. Bryan, I needed that so badly."
With a smile on her face and eyes sparking, Ellen looked to be around his age of thirty–two rather than the six or eight years his senior he knew her to be. "Bad day?"
She waved a hand in front of her as if she wanted to shoo away the question. "Nothing that time and patience won't solve," she murmured mysteriously. "But right now I've got some errands to run before heading over to the toy drive and barbecue at the police station. You'll be there, won't you?"
Her tone suggested he'd better put in an appearance. "I've got a ton of work to do, but maybe I'll drop by later."
Her brows rose in surprise. "You're working on a Friday night? Again? What happened to Crystal? Or Lisa? Or—" her tone lowered a notch "—Holly?"
"You know Holly and I never dated exclusively," he repeated for what had to be the thousandth time. He promised himself there and then that he'd be more discreet in his hookups.
"So she was another one hoping to change your wayward ways?"
Bryan lowered the box into the trunk. "All I can say is that you women have a vengeful streak."
"Looked to me like she was more than willing to comfort you this weekend," she murmured, gesturing to where Tricia's car had been parked.
He glanced at the blackened tire marks left behind. "My office is a disaster, and all Holly's sister will send me from the temp agency are marriageminded women too afraid to break a nail unless there's a chance it might involve rough sex."
Ellen chuckled at his complaint, her expression telling him she didn't sympathize much. "I take it you haven't had any luck coming up with a fundraiser then?"
He closed the trunk with a scowl. "When have I had time? Besides, people will gladly donate toys and food, but when it comes to cold, hard cash, they still look at me like the new guy just waiting to take their money and run. It's been three years and I'm still the outsider. I'm beginning to think the clinic will never happen."
Ellen clucked her tongue, the sound motherly. "Think positive—you'll come up with something. And I'll give some thought to your office manager dilemma. In the meantime, go lock up and come to the station for dinner. The work will still be there tomorrow."
"That's the problem." He glared at his office door and wondered how he'd be prepared for Monday morning the way things were now. If anything, Tricia had made more of a mess.
"No," Ellen corrected, "the problem is you pick the wrong women—something you've done as long as I've known you. If you want to change the way people see you, then you need to figure out why you're keeping yourself from finding happiness."
"They won't donate because they think I'm not happy?" He tilted his head in pretended interest.
"Ellen, that's far–fetched even for you." "Fine, make fun, but the next time you find yourself in the mood, pick a woman, not a girl, who makes your blood heat just thinking about her."
"Makes my blood heat. What have you been reading?"
The woman gave him a good–natured swat. "You're not listening to a word I say, are you? Be that way, but if you ask me, you've brought this on yourself."