The Best Medicine: A Strictly Business Novel

The Best Medicine: A Strictly Business Novel

by Elizabeth Hayley

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451475527
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/02/2015
Series: A Strictly Business Novel Series , #1
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,256,312
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 4.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Elizabeth Hayley is the penname for "Elizabeth" and "Hayley," two friends who have been self-publishing romance novels since 2013. They are best known for their Pieces series, among other novels.
Elizabeth lives with her husband, daughter and dog in Pennsylvania.
Hayley lives with her husband, son and dog in Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt

ALSO BY ELIZABETH HAYLEY

SIGNET ECLIPSE

Chapter 1

“If one more douche bag gets handsy with me tonight, I’m going to go ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ on his ass,” Lauren yelled over the blaring techno and raucous crowd.

“Tell me about it,” Simone agreed. “I haven’t been groped this unappealingly since I was in the back of Todd Grady’s car in eleventh grade.”

“Doesn’t he go by ‘Tina’ now?” Cassidy asked.

Simone widened her eyes and slowly nodded her head. The girls instantly broke out in hysterics.

Lauren relished these nights with her girlfriends—casually drinking in Mickey’s Bar and Grill and flouncing around the dance floor like deranged Riverdance rejects. The four of them—Lauren, Simone, Cassidy, and Quinn—had been the Fantastic Foursome since middle school, though Lauren had known Quinn since kindergarten, when she’d dragged Quinn out of the lunch line so they could go outside for recess early. They’d been friends ever since.

Lauren took a sip from her glass and tasted diluted Malibu. “I’m getting another drink. Maybe the alcohol will kill the STDs that are seeping out of these cretins. Anyone else need anything?” Her friends all shook their heads, causing Lauren to say “lightweights” over her shoulder as she pushed her way toward the bar. With school starting in two weeks, Lauren intended to take full advantage of the last few days of summer before she’d have to buckle down and get into student mode.

Eight years ago, Lauren had thrown her small crew for a loop when she’d announced that she was going out of state for college. But that sojourn had only lasted two years before she’d returned to Virginia, taken some time off from school, and ultimately gotten her life back on track. Now, at twenty-six, she was about to finish her last year of graduate school at George Mason University and couldn’t wait to join “adulthood”—a place her friends had entered years ago.

Once she arrived at the bar, she smoothed down her canary yellow halter top, which had ridden up as she pressed her way through the multitude of men. Lauren flagged down Sam, one of the bartenders she knew, and held up her glass to him. He gave her a swift nod and set about mixing her drink. Lauren and her friends had been coming to Mickey’s since they were twenty-one. Her parents had known Mickey since they were kids, so she’d always felt comfortable there despite the influx of drunk, horny guys.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

Lauren cringed as soon as she recognized the voice. She took a deep breath before turning around to face the man who had shamelessly been trying to get into her pants since tenth grade. “Hi, Josh,” she said, feigning a small smile. Lauren had always been good at reading people. It was part of the reason she had changed her major from marketing to psychology when she enrolled at George Mason. And she knew exactly what kind of man Josh was, which is why she had no interest in being around him.

“Hey, beautiful. So how about it? Can I get you a drink?” Josh winked at her, which reminded her of her great-uncle Thomas, who had an odd tic that caused his eyelid to spasm constantly.

The image made her laugh abruptly, which earned her a curious look from Josh. Great, now I’ve suddenly become the weird one, she thought. It wasn’t that Josh was unattractive: he was tall, well-built, and had a handsome face. No, the real problem was that his dick had been buried in more holes than a homeless dog’s bone. And since he was an arrogant prick, those holes didn’t always belong to Virginia’s classiest bachelorettes. Lauren regarded him with the same wariness a child would a party clown: he was fun to laugh at, but the last thing you wanted was to find yourself alone in a room with him.

“Sorry. You just reminded me of something really funny.”

Josh smiled, thinking her words were a compliment. “Oh yeah? What would that be?”

“Uuuh.” Lauren dragged the word out, trying to think of the right way to phrase her response. “My uncle used to wink at me a lot. Well, not just me. It wasn’t like some creepy thing where he’d wink at his young relatives. He had this spasm problem. Not that you looked like you were spasming. I just don’t see a lot of people wink, so when you did it, that’s what I thought of.” Lauren was rambling and from the bemused smirk on Josh’s face, she could tell he thought he was flustering her. Which he was, but not for the reason he thought. “Anyway, we have a tab running, so I’m all good on the drink. Thanks though.” Lauren turned back toward the bar just as Sam set the Malibu and 7-Up in front of her.

“Anything else?” Sam asked, glancing quickly at Josh and then back to Lauren.

“You got an exit strategy back there anywhere?” Lauren asked quietly so Josh wouldn’t overhear.

“I can pull the fire alarm,” Sam joked.

Lauren smiled widely. “I’ll keep it in mind.”

Sam wiped the bar between them with a wet dish towel. “Well, I’m here if you need me,” he said before walking away to help another customer. Lauren smiled again. Sam had been best friends with her older brother, Cooper, and always looked out for Lauren when she was at Mickey’s. He had become a sort of surrogate older brother over the years, even if it was only between the hours of ten p.m. and two a.m.

Lauren turned back around to face Josh, hoping to quickly give him the brush-off so she could return to her friends. But, not expecting him to be standing so close to her, she nearly collided with him. Her drink sloshed over the side of her glass and splashed onto Josh’s gray T-shirt.

“Shit, sorry,” Lauren apologized as she reached toward the bar to grab some napkins, putting her drink down so she could help dry Josh’s shirt.

“No worries. It’ll dry. Though if you were feelin’ like you needed to make it up to me, I’d accept a dance as payment.”

The thought of dancing with Josh made Lauren’s stomach flip. She felt her lips turn down in disgust before she had time to stop them. She noticed his eyes narrow at her reaction and desperately tried to recover. “I, uh, think I’ve done enough damage to you for one night. God only knows what would happen to you if you tried to dance with me.” She let out a small laugh that sounded as halfhearted as it was.

Josh leaned even closer, causing his torso to connect with Lauren’s chest. She silently cursed her size B breasts. If they’d been larger, they would’ve kept Josh farther from her face. “I think I can handle myself,” he replied.

Lauren hoped that was true since she had no intention of handling any part of Josh. The very thought made her shiver in repulsion. Of course, Josh took the slight movement of her body as an invitation. He began leaning down toward her, eyes closed. Lauren suddenly understood why women in horror movies never ran until it was too late. It took her brain a while to accept that this nightmare was actually a reality. Just as his lips were about to connect with hers, she threw her hand up, causing him to kiss her palm.

His eyes jerked open. “What the hell was that?”

“Uh, my hand?” Lauren wasn’t sure why it came out as a question, but it had.

“Yeah, I figured that much out.” Josh backed up a bit, heat radiating off of him. He was pissed. “You’re a real fucking tease—you know that?”

Lauren’s back straightened. If this douche bag wanted to start name-calling, then he’d found a willing adversary. “And you’re a fucking misogynist. Since you’re clearly an idiot, let me take the time to spell something out for you: I’m. Not. Interested. Now get the hell out of my way so that I can go back to people whose company I actually enjoy.” She sidestepped Josh quickly and began walking toward her friends, not even bothering to pick up her drink.

Josh stood stock-still for a moment, clearly stunned by Lauren’s words. But that didn’t last long. Lauren hadn’t made it more than five steps before she felt a firm grip on her biceps and was pulled toward a small alcove off to the side of the bar. Once the destination had been reached, Josh spun her around and thrust her roughly against the wall. The impact caused her breath to leave her momentarily, but she recovered quickly.

“Don’t you ever put your hands on me again!” Lauren yelled in Josh’s face. If he thought she was going to back down, he was sorely mistaken. When it came to fight-or-flight situations, Lauren always fought. Her brother had taught her how to handle herself when she’d grown boobs, and she’d been ever thankful for it.

Josh pushed against her, putting his arms on the wall on either side of her head in an effort to use his size and proximity to intimidate her. And while the situation did cause fear to bubble within her, she’d never let it show.

“You’re so sexy when you’re mad,” Josh rasped into her ear.

“Josh, I’m giving you one last chance to back up before I seriously lose my shit.” Lauren’s voice was strong and laced with a warning that she had every intention of following through with.

“Stop playing hard to get, baby. I know you want it. I can see how hard your nipples are through your shirt. And I bet if I touch that sweet pussy, I’ll feel how wet it is for me. Maybe I should prove it to you.” Josh’s hand quickly skated down the wall and landed on the button on Lauren’s jeans. He fumbled for a couple seconds before all hell broke loose.

Lauren may have been more than a little tipsy, but that didn’t make her more tolerant of Josh’s inappropriate behavior. It made her rail against it with a fervor she’d only felt a few times in her life. Reflexively, she brought her fist up in a lightning-fast move and connected with Josh’s windpipe. He staggered back, gripping his throat, but Lauren wasn’t done. She brought her heel down hard on the top of his flip-flop-clad foot, then brought her knee up to connect with his balls, causing Josh to double over with a pain that she was sure radiated through his body.

Lauren stepped closer to him, needing to make sure he knew that she wasn’t scared of him. She’d just kicked his ass, and she’d do it again. Anytime. “Fuck with me again, and a broken dick and a sore throat will be the least of your problems.”

Josh straightened slightly, his hands still covering his groin, and looked at her with venom in his eyes.

Lauren turned sharply and walked quickly out of the alcove and back toward the bar. When she heard heavy footsteps behind her, she spun her head to see Josh following. She quickened her pace, realizing that she was dealing with a special kind of moron. Reaching the bar, she yelled to Sam to get his attention. His furrowing brow let her know he noticed the worry on her face. “Time for the fire alarm,” she mouthed, hoping he had suddenly learned to read lips. He looked at her, confused. “Fire alarm!” she yelled. Recognition seemed to dawn on his face, but Lauren couldn’t be sure because a shrill alarm began to blare, diverting her attention.

It took Lauren a moment to realize what happened after that. She registered people running for the exit, pushing one another to get out of the packed building. Fights broke out around the bar and outside due to the throng of bodies trying to escape through the same door. Tables broke, glasses shattered, and screaming filled the air. Lauren caught sight of Cassidy, Simone, and Quinn and ran toward them.

“What the hell is going on?” Lauren yelled over the noise.

“Guess there’s a fire,” Quinn explained, fear etched on her face.

“A fire? There’s no smoke or anything. Who said there was a—” Fuck my life. Lauren hadn’t really thought about the consequences of someone other than Sam hearing her yell. But clearly, someone else had heard her, and they’d pulled the fucking fire alarm. “Shit, girls, come on. We gotta get out of here.” It took them quite a while to push through the crowd and make it out the front doors. Had there really been a fire, they would’ve been goners. Finally they made it outside just as the fire trucks were pulling up. Lauren watched in horror as police tried to calm the raging crowd.

“It was her. She said it.”

Lauren turned toward the voice and saw a thick blond girl pointing her out to police. Lauren had never really been the type to wish ill will on strangers—until that moment. “Ladies, we need to skedaddle. Now.” Lauren tried to corral her friends by urging them toward the street.

As they reached the edge of the sidewalk, Lauren heard the voice that caused her blood to boil nearly out of her skin. “Way to go, you crazy bitch.”

Lauren’s eyes finally came to rest on the prick. Reacting on pure adrenaline and hatred, Lauren grabbed the drink Cassidy was still holding and hurled it toward Josh. Unfortunately, Lauren was quite a few years removed from her days on the high school softball team. Her velocity had remained, but her aim had evidently disappeared. The glass she’d thrown sailed wide, completely missing Josh. Unfortunately it didn’t miss the rear window of a car that was driving away from the scene. And as she heard the splintering of glass, Lauren knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the universe hated her.

The driver slammed on his brakes and jumped out of the car. But it wasn’t his rage Lauren was worried about. No, she was too focused on the two strong hands that gripped her arms from behind and practically threw her onto the hood of a nearby police car.

“What is it with everyone throwing me around tonight?” Lauren knew she should have kept her mouth shut. She wasn’t a troublemaker, and she definitely wasn’t someone who disrespected authority. But since she had already accidentally become both in a matter of minutes, she decided to roll with it.

“Keep your mouth shut,” the cop ordered as he called for a female officer to come over and search Lauren. “You have anything sharp in your pockets?” he asked her.

Just my machete and my hunting knife. “Not last time I checked,” she responded dryly.

“Listen up, honey. Being a smartass really isn’t in your best interest right now. You’re in deep shit, so maybe you should be a little more cooperative.”

“What are you doing to her?” Lauren heard a wasted Quinn ask. “You can’t grab her like that!” Quinn was approaching full-blown hysterics.

“Ma’am, back up before you get yourself in trouble.”

“Why? We haven’t done anything wrong. Let go of her right now.”

“It’s okay, Quinn. Just do what he says.” The last thing Lauren needed was to be responsible for getting one of her best friends arrested.

“Thatta girl. You just follow your own advice, and we’ll get along just fine,” the cop said to her.

Lauren had had enough of being patronized. “We’d get along better if you’d get your hands off me.”

Lauren felt the cop tense. But she really didn’t see how things could get much worse. Then he cuffed her, and she suddenly saw things a little more clearly. A female officer arrived and patted Lauren down as the other officer rattled off her charges. “Public intoxication.” Okay, I can’t argue that one. “Disorderly conduct.” Eh, probably no defense against that one either. “Propulsion of a missile.” Wait . . . What?

“Did you just say ‘propulsion of a missile’? What am I, an AH-64 Apache helicopter? You’re kidding, right?”

The cop stilled for a minute before finally speaking. “You watch a lot of action movies I see, uh—” He looked down at the ID the female officer had withdrawn from Lauren’s pocket. “Miss Hastings. But no, I’m not kidding. Keep it up and I’ll tack on inciting a riot.”

“First of all, I’m not a complete idiot. I didn’t learn the name of the helicopter from movies. I learned it from my brother, who did two tours in Afghanistan.” Lauren wasn’t sure why she felt such an intense need to share that information. Maybe it was because she felt insulted by the cop’s insinuation that she wouldn’t be informed enough to know the name of the most common type of assault chopper. Maybe it was because such an insinuation felt like a slap in the face because Lauren made sure she knew everything that even had the slightest bit to do with Cooper. Or maybe it was because he only saw her as a drunken moron, and was therefore probably making all sorts of negative assumptions about her upbringing and family. Whatever the reason, it was important to Lauren that he knew at least that one bit of truth about her. “Second of all, the window was a complete accident. Maybe you should go talk to the jerk who put his hands all over me in the bar. That’s what caused this mess in the first place.”

“Josh touched you? I’ll kill that motherfucker.” This time, it was Simone’s voice that echoed in Lauren’s ears, and she couldn’t help but smile. Her girls always had her back.

The cop jerked Lauren’s handcuffed wrists, spinning her around to face him. He was older, maybe the same age as her father, and looked weary as all hell. He probably had to deal with shit like this all of the time: self-involved twentysomethings who didn’t have the sense God gave them. Lauren found herself feeling a bit of remorse that she was the one causing all of this chaos. He looked at her for a beat, as though he were trying to figure something out about her. When he finally spoke, his voice was low. “Do you want to press charges on someone, Lauren?”

Lauren felt her chin quake the slightest bit. The emotion of the night rolled itself into a ball and settled in her throat. She took a deep breath, forcing the tears down. She wouldn’t cry. Lauren hated girls that used emotion to get out of things. She was better than that. Stronger. If she had broken the law, then she’d accept the consequences for it. “No.”

He leaned slightly toward her, his voice softening. “Are you sure?”

The truth was, other than grabbing her arm and making her uncomfortable, Josh hadn’t done anything to her. Not really. Ultimately, she’d been the one who’d kicked his ass. Not the other way around. “Yes. I’m sure.”

“Okay, then,” the officer sighed. “I’m going to put you in the back of this car, and then you’ll be taken to the station.”

Lauren nodded her head and let the officer put her in the cruiser. The fight had drained out of her. All that was left was overwhelming exhaustion.

“Don’t worry, girl. We’ll bust ya out!” she heard Cassidy yell through the window.

Lauren turned her head and offered them a weak smile before the cops pushed the girls and the rest of the crowd away from the vehicle. She suddenly felt embarrassed. She was too old to be behaving this way. She may have still technically been attending a college, but that didn’t mean she had to act like a college kid. She sat in the backseat for about ten minutes before the officer who had cuffed her climbed into the driver’s seat.

As he got settled and turned the ignition, Lauren found herself speaking. “You want to do something for me?”

The officer sighed heavily. “Nothing would bring me greater joy,” he responded.

Lauren couldn’t help the laugh that burst from her.

“What?” the officer asked.

“Turn on the lights and sirens. If I’m going to get arrested, I want to at least look like a badass doing it.”

The cop shook his head. “Kids,” he muttered. But as soon as he pulled away from the curb, he flipped both on.

*   *   *

Lauren was processed and then put in a cell with a middle-aged woman named Eleanor. Eleanor was evidently a huge fan of bath salts and tequila. After she tried to climb the wall, exclaiming that she was Spiderwoman, the cops came in, strapped her to a chair, and wheeled her away. Unable to resist, Lauren had uttered, “Bye, Eleanor. Make good choices,” which earned her a stern look from one of the officers and a “fuck off” from Eleanor.

Lauren spent the night sitting on one of the cement bunks, her back pushed against a wall. With Eleanor gone, the night passed with alarming slowness. Finally, at what Lauren figured had to be the next morning, the officers wheeled a TV into her cell.

“Oh man, you’re not going to attempt to brainwash me by making me watch religious programming, are you?”

The officer tried to suppress the quirk of his lips, and Lauren felt a little more like herself.

“No,” the officer responded. “We find it easier to bring the judge to you, rather than taking you to the judge.” He turned the set on and then left the cell, locking it behind him.

“Lauren Hastings,” the judge began. “This is not your hearing. This is your arraignment. You’re being charged with one count propulsion— Wait a minute. Does this really say propulsion of a missile?”

Lauren flapped her arms and nodded her head in a that’s-what-I-said gesture.

The judge looked annoyed, but continued. “Anyway, you’re also charged with one count of public intoxication and one count of disorderly conduct. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you free at the cost of Fairfax County. The officer is going to give you a copy of your affidavit of probable cause as well as instructions for how to apply to the public defender’s office. Bail in this matter is being set at ten thousand dollars unsecured. Your preliminary hearing has been set for three days from today.”

And then he was gone. Lauren couldn’t help but compare the man to the Wizard of Oz. Maybe I should’ve asked him if he had a gift for me, like common sense.

“What does it mean if bail is unsecured?” Lauren asked the officer when he returned a few minutes later to get the television.

“It means you get to leave without paying anything as long as you show up to court.”

“Well, thank God for that.” Lauren sighed, relieved.

The officer continued, “I’ll get your affidavit, and then we’ll get you out of here. You need to call anyone to come pick you up?”

“Yeah, I do. But I can wait ’til I’m released. Thanks.” Lauren had called her mom right after she’d been brought in the previous night but told her not to bother coming down to the station until they let her go.

The officer came back a short while later with the necessary paperwork and then led Lauren out of her cell. Once she had retrieved all of her personal belongings, she dialed her mom from her cell phone.

“I’m guessing you’ve been sprung?” her mom said as a greeting.

“Yup, I’m a free woman.”

“Okay, I’ll be right there.”

Lauren sighed. “Thanks, Mom.”

“Oh, anytime. It’s not every day I get the pleasure of picking my only daughter up from jail. I’m planning on taking some pictures of you out front, so be prepared.”

“You’re a riot,” Lauren replied drolly.

“No, I think I’ll leave the rioting to you.”

Lauren hesitated for a second. “That was a good one.”

“I know. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Lauren ended the call, walked outside, and sat down on a bench to wait for her mom. She pulled up soon after, and Lauren trudged toward the Explorer.

“There’s my little criminal. How was the joint? Get any tattoos?”

“Yeah, my new bitch Eleanor inked a skull and crossbones on my back. She was going to add a teardrop on my face, but she was transferred to the psych ward before we got to it.” Lauren reclined in the seat. “I’m freakin’ exhausted.”

“Yeah, well, jail will do that to you.”

“You speaking from experience?” Lauren asked.

Her mom smiled. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

They drove in silence for a few minutes before her mom spoke. “Mickey called us this morning.”

“Oh yeah?” Lauren asked tentatively.

“You caused quite a bit of damage to his place, Lauren.”

“I did not personally cause any damage to his bar. Some guy’s rear window, yes. The bar, no.”

“Yeah, well, that’s not how he sees it. He said that he won’t press charges if you agree to pay him for the repairs.”

Lauren rubbed a hand over her face. “Any idea how much money we’re talking?”

“Not yet. He said he’d get back to us once he assessed all the damage. Oh, and he doesn’t want you in there anymore.”

“Ha, that’ll really show me. That place is a hovel.”

“Lauren.” Her mom’s voice was serious. “Despite how minor some of those charges are, you still caused some trouble. I understand that this was all a big misunderstanding, but you’re still going to have to suck it up and face the music.”

Lauren turned in her seat to face her mother. “I know. I get it. I messed up. I’ll pay him for it.” Lauren was supposed to be doing an internship at the Inova Fairfax Hospital during the spring semester. She would be working in their mental health facility to get some real world experience before finishing up her master’s. In order to take extra credits in the fall and carry a lighter load during her spring internship, Lauren had worked her ass off at H and M all summer and saved just enough to pay the semester’s rent for her studio apartment that she’d had since she’d enrolled at George Mason. Thankfully, her dad owned the property, so there wouldn’t be any unforeseen housing costs. And she highly doubted that he would kick her out if she was late with rent one month. Still, the whole situation felt shitty. Even though she was technically living on her own, still having to rely on her parents as a safety net was something she’d been working to get away from. “I’ll figure it out. I’m sorry you and Dad got dragged into this. Maybe I can get my job back at the mall or wait tables at night or something.”

“I may have a better solution.” Lauren looked at her mom, whose eyes were shining with something Lauren was sure she wasn’t going to like.

Chapter 2

After Lauren got back to her small apartment, she took a scalding shower to wash the scuzz of the past twelve hours off herself. She knew her parents wouldn’t get too bent out of shape about her arrest. They knew her well enough to understand that her shenanigans were always rooted in her trying to do the right thing. It just blew up in her face sometimes. After she forced herself out of the shower, she threw on her pajamas and climbed into bed to sleep the rest of the day away. She had sent a text to the girls on her way home, and then settled in for the good night’s sleep she had missed.

But her much needed slumber didn’t last long before it was interrupted by a piercing ring. Lauren picked up the phone and put it to her head cautiously, acting as if the thing were a bomb. “Hello?”

“Lauren? Hey, it’s Sam.”

Sam had never called her before. He must be really worried. Despite that, Lauren couldn’t help giving him a hard time. “Sam who?” Lauren asked with a smile.

“Uh, Sam Brooks?”

“Are you asking me if that’s your name, or telling me?”

Sam let out a huff, but there was humor in it. “You’re such a ballbuster.”

Lauren thought for a second. “You know, that may be an appropriate nickname for me after what I did to Josh last night.” Lauren laughed, but stopped abruptly when she didn’t hear a reply. “Sam? You still there?”

Sam’s voice was gritty when he finally spoke again. “That asshole did something, didn’t he?”

“No, not really. Nothing I couldn’t handle,” Lauren said, trying to reassure him.

“Some help I am,” Sam said bitterly.

Lauren let out a short laugh. “I’m not your responsibility, Sam. You were working. You shouldn’t have to worry about me and my nonsense.”

“Yeah, but the person whose responsibility it is isn’t here to do it, so I should’ve done a better job. Done the job like he would’ve done.” Sam’s voice was laced with a swirl of emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment, frustration. Hearing him like this broke Lauren’s heart all over again.

“I’m twenty-six. I shouldn’t need a big brother to take care of me.” Lauren’s voice was small, affected.

Now it was Sam’s turn to laugh, though it was pained. “It would’ve been his pleasure, Lo.”

A tear slipped down Lauren’s cheek when she heard Sam use the nickname Cooper had for her. “I haven’t been called that in a long time.” She released a sigh, then a chuckle in an attempt to shift the mood. “But I guess it’s better than ballbuster.”

Sam laughed too. “Yeah, I guess it is.”

Lauren fidgeted with her fingernails as she tried to think of something else to say. This was the most Lauren and Sam had talked in almost six years. It was comforting and disconcerting, all at the same time. “Thanks for calling. It means a lot.”

“It’s the least I could do,” he replied simply. “Well, I guess I’ll see you around.”

“Mmm, probably not. I’ve been banned from Mickey’s. Seems as if I’m a bit of a troublemaker.”

“You? Never,” Sam replied, and Lauren could hear the smile in his voice. “Listen, Lo, I know I’m not Cooper. But if you ever need anything . . .” He let the sentence hang there, unfinished.

“You’ll be the first call I make,” Lauren finished for him.

“Good. I’ll see ya.”

“See ya, Sam.” Lauren disconnected the call and plopped back on the bed. The conversation with Sam, despite its brevity, had caused a welling of emotions in her. She’d never felt particularly close to Sam, even when he was at their house all the time, hanging around with Cooper. He was the opposite of Cooper in every way: quiet to Coop’s outgoing nature, reflective to her brother’s impulsive behavior. But Lauren didn’t question the veracity of his words for a second. If she needed him, Sam would be there in an instant. Not because he loved her, but because he loved Cooper. And now his love had nowhere else to go.

*   *   *

The next two days passed without Lauren requiring police intervention. She spoke with her family’s attorney, and he assured her that this would be no big deal. Maybe some small fines, but nothing that should wind up on her permanent record.

On Tuesday, Lauren showed up to court and prepared herself for her day of reckoning. Mickey hadn’t shown up since they had already come to an agreement about Lauren paying him back. The owner of the car Lauren vandalized didn’t show either. The girls had told her that as soon as the cops approached him to ask about the damage he’d jumped back in his car and sped off. It seemed Lauren wasn’t the only one who was on the outs with the five-o that night. The only person who appeared in court was the arresting officer, who read the eyewitness accounts and his own observations of the ordeal.

Lauren’s attorney explained that she would get what was called a “summary disposition.” This meant she’d plead guilty to the minor charges, and the rest would be dropped.

The judge ended things by offering his sentence. “All other charges are dismissed in lieu of restitution to the victim. Summary fines will be paid to the court in the amount of two hundred and thirty dollars for each offense. Stay out of trouble, young lady.”

“Yes, Your Honor,” Lauren replied before being ushered out of the courtroom by her lawyer.

Once they were in the hallway, Lauren’s lawyer turned to her. “So, Lauren, do you have plans for how exactly you plan to pay for your fines and restitution?”

“Yes. I’m going to work with my mother.”

*   *   *

Trinity Hospital wasn’t as large as Inova Fairfax, but it was close to home and her mom’s boss had agreed to help her out. He’d agreed to pay her a small salary that would go toward her fines and paying Mickey back.

Thankfully, even though Lauren was taking a heavy course load, she’d still managed to squeeze all of her classes into three days. So, she’d spend Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at school, and Tuesday and Thursday at the hospital. But since school didn’t start for a week and a half, Lauren had opted to spend all of the following week working with her mom. Mickey’s insurance covered most of the damage, but he was requiring Lauren to pay his deductible, as well as the amount insurance wasn’t going to cover. The whole situation sucked. If Lauren had a real job like her friends did, paying Mickey back wouldn’t be such a production. Lauren hated that her life wasn’t where it should have been by that point, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. She had spent the past several years working as hard as she could to make up for her major screw-up at Dartmouth. At least this time she didn’t need to leave the state to escape her problems.

Dr. Jacobs had offered to pay Lauren eleven dollars an hour, and she’d agreed to a nine-hour workday. The only thing that hadn’t been discussed was what Lauren would actually be doing at the hospital. Dr. Jacobs was a general practitioner who was based out of the hospital but also had a satellite office in the area.

But as she and her mom walked through the hospital lobby the day after her hearing, Lauren figured she’d find out soon enough. Her mom took her to security and got her a badge before they headed up to the third floor, where Dr. Jacobs’ office was.

As soon as they entered, Lauren’s mom began introducing her around. All of the nurses and receptionists seemed pleasant enough, though Lauren noticed that they were all closer to her mom’s age than her own. Not that it mattered. Lauren had just been hoping that there’d be someone around her age that she could maybe have some fun with—help the time pass more quickly.

No such luck, Lauren thought.

*   *   *

Scott had been behind all morning. It only took one chatty patient to throw off his entire schedule. He’d now be forced to cut other appointments short so he could get back on track. Scott loved his job, and wanted to make sure that every person who came through his office received the same level of attention as everyone else. But with his schedule backed up, he’d be hard-pressed to do that.

And the fact that it was Pam’s delinquent daughter’s first day didn’t help his mood. He didn’t know why he let himself get talked into these things. What the hell did he care if some spoiled brat had legal problems? That had nothing to do with him. But he liked Pam and wanted to help her out if he could. Though he swore to himself, if this girl had piercings all over her face or some kind of weird hair color, she’d have to go. Scott couldn’t have his patients made uncomfortable because some rebel without a cause didn’t know how to behave in public. He avoided hiring young people for exactly that reason. They were unpredictable and self-absorbed. Never mind that Scott was just twenty-nine himself. He was more mature than most. Driven. He didn’t have time for childish bullshit.

He stopped around the corner from the main nurses’ station, looking at a patient chart, when he heard Pam introducing her daughter to the other women. Scott took a deep breath and rolled his eyes. May as well get this nightmare over with. With disinterest and haughty body language, he rounded the corner.

And then he saw her. His feet immediately cemented themselves to the ground and his arms fell to his sides. No way. That can’t be Pam’s daughter.

He took in the girl, older than he’d expected. Of course he hadn’t asked her specific age. Pam had said she was finishing up her degree, which he figured put her around twenty-one. But this girl looked older than that. Her light brown hair fell past her shoulders, and she wore a blue and purple silk scarf as a headband. She was petite, maybe five three, with small but perky breasts that complemented her thin frame perfectly. And her eyes. God, he thought he’d never seen anything so blue. But as they locked with his, he found that he momentarily did.

“Oh good, there you are. This is my daughter, Lauren. Lauren, this is Dr. Scott Jacobs.”

Lauren approached him calmly, looking completely comfortable in her skin. Her confidence threw him. Scott was used to having a certain influence over women. He was handsome, athletically built, and a doctor. Women usually fawned all over him, batting their eyelashes and pushing their breasts out. But Lauren did none of those things, and it turned him on more than he could’ve imagined.

*   *   *

“Hi, Dr. Jacobs. Nice to meet you.” Lauren extended her hand to him, keeping her eyes on his. She noticed what an interesting shade of green they were, almost emerald. He was gorgeous. And she realized as soon as she saw his cocky stance and condescending smirk that he was well aware of that fact. Lauren loved interacting with guys like Dr. Jacobs. All arrogant and superficial. She had learned early that guys like him were easily thrown by girls like her. Girls who weren’t impressed with shiny cars and perfect smiles. And as she watched his eyes appraise her, not registering her outstretched hand, she knew that she was going to really enjoy working at his office.

“You want me to Purell first?” she asked him.

“Uh,” he said, narrowing his eyes at her, “what?”

“Before you shake my hand. Do you want me to sanitize or something?”

Scott shook his head, seemingly embarrassed. “No, sorry.” He steeled his face and shook her hand firmly in his before releasing it abruptly. “And it’s Scott.”

“Excuse me?”

“My name. I go by Dr. Scott. Not Dr. Jacobs.”

“How pedestrian. I go by Lauren.”

Scott seemed taken slightly aback by her response. Like he was surprised she’d poke fun at him. She’d said it playfully, but she began to wonder if he was capable of taking a joke.

“If you don’t mind me asking, Lauren, how old are you? I should’ve asked before I agreed to let you work here. I can’t have teenagers running around the place. You understand.”

Lauren felt her lips quirk—an involuntary response to his obvious insult. She hadn’t meant to be rude when she’d commented on his name, but he seemed to be on the offensive now. Shit. When would she learn to stop putting her foot in her mouth?

“I’m twenty-six. So no worries about me—uh, how’d you put it?—oh yes, running around.”

“Hmm, twenty-six and still in college? Ah, well, academics aren’t everyone’s strong suit.”

Lauren didn’t even bother correcting him by saying that she was finishing her graduate degree. She wanted to let him build his own house of assumptions so she could watch them crumble around him over the next few months. “Yes, and sometimes they’re the only thing a person is strong in,” Lauren replied in an overly sweet tone that told him she knew he was intentionally baiting her, and that she was game. Lauren never backed down from a verbal chess match. That was something she prided herself on. “How old are you?”

“Lauren!” Pam scolded her, but Lauren never faltered.

“What? He asked me first.” Her eyes had yet to leave his.

Her prolonged eye contact seemed to make him tense, which made Lauren want to hold his gaze even longer. “Twenty-nine,” he replied.

“And you already have your own practice. Very Doogie Howser of you.” Lauren could barely contain her grin, knowing that such a phony pop culture comparison would zing Scott’s ego.

“Well, I didn’t exactly start the practice. My father started it and left it to me when he died.” Scott stopped suddenly and averted his eyes toward the ground. Clearly, Lauren had hit a nerve she hadn’t meant to touch. And she empathized immediately. After a few moments, he seemed to collect his thoughts enough to change the subject.

But she noticed the change in his posture. He looked . . . uneasy. “Well, I arranged for you to go up to Pediatrics this week. They can always use the help, and since your addition to my office was somewhat sudden, I’m still working out what exactly we’ll be having you do here.”

Lauren had a sneaking suspicion that he had done this less out of the goodness of his heart and more to get a potential criminal out of his office while he could sort out whether he was comfortable with her being there. But as he walked away quickly without another word, she had a feeling she had already begun to make him uncomfortable in all the right ways.

Chapter 3

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Lauren had spent all morning in the Pediatric Unit and had had a blast. Her proclivity for nonsense and random silliness meant that she was a breath of fresh air to the unit of sick kids. She hadn’t realized how much time had passed until one of the nurses stopped her from bouncing between rooms like a tennis ball and told her she could take lunch. Lauren hadn’t even noticed how hungry she was, but the mere mention of food caused her stomach to rumble.

Lauren walked back to Dr. Scott’s office to pick up the lunch her mom had packed for her. A lesser woman might have felt like a child—having her lunch packed for her by her mommy. But Lauren didn’t have that issue. If her mom wanted to pack her a lunch, far be it for Lauren to argue. She walked in and was surprised to find the office empty of patients. “What happened? You guys chase everyone away?” Lauren asked the receptionist, Carla.

“Ha, I wish. We close from one to two for lunch.”

That hadn’t occurred to Lauren, though she wasn’t sure why it would have. She continued around the desk and walked into the back office where the refrigerator was. The other nurses, her mom included, were gathered around a table eating. “Hey, Laur. How’s Pediatrics?”

“Freakin’ awesome. You guys are missing out working down here. They have Legos,” Lauren said with a smile as she grabbed her lunch and began to walk back the way she had just come.

“You want to eat with us, sweetheart?” her mom asked.

“Ah, so now I’m sweetheart again. Just a few days ago I was a felon, and now I’m sweetheart. You are a fickle woman, Pamela Hastings. But no. I’m going to go down to the cafeteria and make some phone calls. I’ll see you wonderful ladies later.”

The women all said their good-byes as Lauren left the office and made her way back to the elevator. She hadn’t spoken to Cassidy, Simone, or Quinn much since her unfortunate brush with the law, and she needed some gossip therapy with her besties.

*   *   *

Scott didn’t normally go down to the cafeteria. He didn’t quite fit in around the hospital, being too young to really bond with any of the attendings but finding himself often annoyed by residents. Even the two other physicians in his own practice avoided him at all costs, which was just fine with Scott. He had a job to do, not friends to make. But when he had overheard Lauren say she was going down to the cafeteria, he suddenly wanted to go too. He told himself that he was simply interested in figuring out what kind of person she was before he gave her permission to work in his office, but he knew that was bullshit. Mostly since he’d already granted her permission to work there, but also because he couldn’t deny that he found her intriguing. Not to mention sexy as hell.

He tried to act natural, taking his time choosing his lunch so that he could watch where she sat without being obvious about it. He waited until she took a seat and pulled out her phone before he paid and walked to a table directly behind her. He could hear her perfectly as she began talking.

“Hey. What’s going on?” Lauren said into the phone. “It’s going well so far. I spent the morning up in Pediatrics and had a blast. It sure beat hanging around my mom’s office. I’m going to be bored out of my mind spending the next few months there.”

Scott couldn’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment at her words, but he quickly reminded himself that her opinion didn’t matter. He wasn’t interested in her opinions. He was interested in getting her beneath him on the desk in his office. Though being interested in it and doing it were very different things. Scott knew better than to get sexually involved with anyone who worked for him. Since the relationships he preferred were typically short-lived, he didn’t need the awkwardness of seeing the other person every day after he broke things off.

“Well, now that you mention it.” Lauren lowered her voice so that Scott had to lean back slightly in his chair to hear her. “The doctor who owns the practice, Dr. Scott”—he ignored the snotty tone she adopted when saying his name—“is megahot. Like off-the-charts eye candy. He’s tall, though everyone is compared to me. I’d say about six foot. It was hard to tell just how ripped he is under his white coat, but I could definitely tell he keeps himself in pretty good shape.”

Scott wanted to turn around and ask her if she’d like to find out for herself just how in shape he was, but he was too fascinated by her conversation to interrupt her.

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The Best Medicine: A Strictly Business Novel 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
JennRG More than 1 year ago
I knew reading this book I was going to enjoy it, very much! But I didn't just enjoy it, I loved it, I devoured it!! I fell in love with Lauren, I fell in love with Scott and I fell in more love with Lauren and Scott! I love Elizabeth Haley!
ValerieStuckInBooks More than 1 year ago
I thought I'd like this book. All signs pointed that direction. The cover, the blurb, the romance. Yes, it looks like my kind of book. But the first 40 pages were a no go for me. I didn't like Lauren a lot. And, while I liked Scott more, it wasn't a lot more. I hesitated. Do I really want to finish this? After all, I'm a pretty character driven reader. And I really didn't like Lauren. She was mouthy and rude, proud of her ballbuster nickname. The good news was that Scott could handle her. And I did enjoy their banter. So I kept reading. SO GLAD I KEPT READING. Here's the thing, the first 40 or so pages these characters feel like they are trying to impress the world. Trying too hard. Trying to be strong and bold characters that make a statement. Then they settle down into getting to knew each other and I ended up liking them. Lauren has some pain in her past. Her brother and a past fling still haunt her. She's good at reading people and speaks before she thinks on a regular basis. But when she starts being real, she feels like a friend. One that you need to protect sometimes but who is definitely in charge of protecting you all the time. And I liked her. Scott's pain is different but very real. He doesn't do relationships for a powerful reason. That reason is one he just doesn't examine anymore. And I love his brother. His big brother who helps him see how things really are and insist that he re-examine. Once Scott decides to re-examine, he figures things out. And it's only fair that he does, he gives his patience that kind of compassion - he deserves the same. Together these two are combustible. While Lauren is bossy outside the bedroom, she lets Scott be in charge in the bedroom. And that boy is the boss...hehe. Inside joke there. I did enjoy their heated moments together. And then there are the friends waiting in the wings for their own story. I wonder if Sam will get his. He needs one too. Just sayin'. Looks like Scott's brother, Tim, and Quinn, Lauren's friend, are next. I read the teaser in the back of this book and it looks good. I really like both of these characters and can see them together. Looking forward to it. If you love your women mouthy and your men confident, then this is the book for you. But really, give this one at least 75 pages before you judge. It's so good after that.
Bekina32 More than 1 year ago
E&H have done it again! Lauren is a sweet girl but somehow trouble always manages to find her. When this last bit of trouble occurs she finds herself in financial trouble to pay back the owner of the bar. Her mom gets her a job at a Dr's office and Lauren can think of a thousand other things she'd rather be doing than working for a stuffy Dr. Enter Dr. Scott. Not stuffy at all. The young, handsome Dr. immediately feels the connection with Lauren BUT, can they do anything about it? Dr. Scott doesn't "do" relationships and when he can no longer stay away from Lauren he lays it all out on the table. He can only offer so much and if she can live with that then it's game on! Much like most of Elizabeth Hayley's books this one will have you laughing at and loving the characters! Not to mention some seriously HOT intimate moments.  The Best Medicine has it all and I highly recommend it. Enjoy! I sure did. :)
Ebbie80 More than 1 year ago
****ARC RECEIVED IN EXCHANGE FOR A HONEST REVIEW*** The Best Medicine is an addictive read; you won’t want to put it down and when it ends you’ll curse Elizabeth Hayley for not writing more. Elizabeth and Hayley wrote a seamless, intense, lustful, quirky, and passionate love story so well that you cannot tell who wrote what to the point where I think these two women share one brain.  Lauren Hastings is slightly behind on life compared to her best friends Quinn, Cass, and Simone. After some unfortunate personal family  issues, Lauren is continuing her graduate degree while her friends have moved on to successful careers. Insert a night of partying, a douche bag, and causing a commotion that lands Lauren in the drunk tank for the night, court dates, restitution, and there you have one-half of the beginning of a messy yet enjoyable passionate…I mean sarcastic love story. ;-) The other half of this sarcasm fueled love story, yes there’s love is doctor…yes Doctor Scott Jacobs; the doctor that employs Lauren to aid in fixing her mess. Dr. Jacobs is a closed off man, he keeps everyone at arm’s length…everyone. And Lauren unknowingly finds his  weak spot. Boy did that weak spot end up finding her hot spot and those hot spots are enticing, seductive, and sexy. Seriously, you have  to read this book! Anyway, Scott and Lauren both manage to breakdown walls that the other has up and that is where this love story  begins albeit in a highly precariously way.  The Best Medicine is certainly an excellent dose of writing to feed your book lovers addiction. And you will become addicted to this story.  Bravo ladies, bravo.