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Brody Huxley closed the file drawer and turned back to his desk. Midday sun streamed into the office through the big windows and highlighted the well-worn furniture in the old building. Customers rarely came to the location. The part-time help would be in after lunch, but Brody didnâ€™t mind manning the place solo.
In the quiet moments alone he knew something was missing. The pinch in his knee reminded him of all the things heâ€™d put in the past. He was haunted by the memory of the fighting overseas and an IED that had exploded close to him and his best friend, Sean Morgan. His knee had been replaced, but the muscle and tendon damage seized up occasionally, causing him pain. His fighting days were behind him, but at twenty-seven, his life wasnâ€™t over yet.
As usual, Sean had been right. A desk job had been the safe bet considering Brodyâ€™s knee. Pride was something heâ€™d had to let go of back in rehab when heâ€™d fallen for a sexy physical therapist who could knock Brody over with a smile. Needing a little help hadnâ€™t killed him, but when Sean had wanted her as well, things had become complicated.
Kat Calvino had made Brody and Sean work hard to regain their independence. Sheâ€™d also solved their dilemma by laying down her law of never dating patients. Six months out of rehab and Brody was still hung up on the raven-haired woman nearly ten years older than him.
Behind the desk, Brody dispatched a couple of handymen to new jobs. Sean and his father owned a small construction company that operated a handyman service on the side. In the winter they added snow removal service since construction slowed way down around Chicago. The routine was good, but today something nagged at Brody until he opened the Internet and went to the site for the Fantasy Castle.
Sean walked in and plopped in the guest chair. "Iâ€™m done for the morning. Want to grab lunch?"
"Sure." Brody glanced at Seanâ€™s arm. He wore short sleeves and didnâ€™t think twice about the ugly scars trailing up and down his arm. Multiple fractures had meant pins and surgeries for him too.
"What are you staring at? Found naughty pictures of Kat on a website?" Sean rounded the desk eagerly.
Sean wasnâ€™t over Kat either but when neither of you won, did it matter? As much as theyâ€™d tempted her to break that rule about dating patients, she was a professional. At thirty-six, she wasnâ€™t playing hard-to-get. She knew what worked for her. All the more reason he admired her.
"Fantasy Castle? Whatâ€™s that? Some sort of kinky amusement park?" Sean asked.
"No. Itâ€™s a resort. You can nominate people who do charitable stuff and good things for others. They get a fantasy week in this castle, if selected." Brody had stumbled on to it trying to find a way to repay Kat. He knew Sean would see right through the plan, but doing something for her felt right. Flowers or some other little trinket wouldnâ€™t be nearly enough for what she did for the waves of injured soldiers coming home.
"If you want to get in touch with Kat, call her. Weâ€™ve got her cell number. We havenâ€™t been her patients for months." Sean downplayed his interest, but Brody knew better.
"This isnâ€™t about trying to date her. She gave us that number if we needed a little refresher rehab. Physical therapist is her job, but she doesnâ€™t have to work with the military. She didnâ€™t have to help us through it all beyond the physical injuries." Brody began filling in the form. Kat took care of most of the men like they were her brothers...but their spark was different. Brody could tell she felt something more for him and Sean. Sheâ€™d had to fight it.
"Fine, so you want her to win a nice vacation. Iâ€™m in. What do we need to do?" Sean leaned over and read the requirements. "Four testimonials. Iâ€™ll call a couple of the guys. We can write up ours and send them in. Just donâ€™t get your hopes up."
Brody shrugged. "She deserves it. A thank you card wonâ€™t cut it."
"If she comes around, we share." Sean held out his fist.
Brody bumped it. Theyâ€™d never fall out or fight. That pact had been made when they were both pursuing her. Kat was special. Theyâ€™d tried to get out and date since, but no one felt right. Women their age were either repulsed or turned on by their scars and military service. Most didnâ€™t fully grasp how deep the damage went.