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Crash Into You

By:Roni Loren

ONE


Don the gas masks and cue the mushroom cloud. Brynn’s date was spiraling toward DEFCON 1—imminent disaster. In the brief time it had taken her to down three hors d’oeuvres, her sexy doctor had tumbled from fantasy fodder to potential therapy client.

Dr. Depressed propped his elbows on the table and leaned forward, his brows knitted. “I don’t know what I did wrong. One minute we’re in love and planning the future, the next I catch her in the copy room with her arms wrapped around the pharmaceutical sales rep.”

Brynn frowned as tears gathered behind his glasses. Oh, hell. She couldn’t have another guy cry on her. That’d be the second one this month. She was becoming the Barbara Walters of dating—taking a perfectly put-together person and reducing him to tears without trying. She reached across the table and gave his hand a quick squeeze. “I’m sorry you had to go through that. It sounds like she took advantage of what a nice guy you are.”

He stared at her for a moment, and then released a breath. “God, what am I doing? I’m breaking that cardinal rule, right? No ex talk on dates. I’m sure you didn’t ask me to come to this fund-raiser so you could hear me yammer about my breakup.”

“It’s fine. Breakups can be tough,” she said, giving her therapist half-smile—the one that said I feel your pain and am so not judging you, even though she was already formulating a hypothetical treatment plan in her head. She drew her hand away and sipped the last of her iced tea.

The lines in his face relaxed, and he leaned back in his seat. “I’m sorry I let it come up. You’re just so easy to talk to.”

“Occupational hazard, I guess,” she said, trying to lighten the mood. But the truth of her statement turned the words to sawdust in her mouth. She enjoyed her work, but did that mean she had signed up to heal every guy she dated? For once, she’d love to worry, like other women did, that a guy had asked her out simply to get her in bed. Instead, she had to worry if someone asked her to dinner because it was cheaper than a therapy session.

A waiter stopped by with a tray of champagne flutes. Brynn accepted one of the drinks, but her companion shook his head. “No thanks, I’m on call. Plus, I don’t want to fall asleep on my lovely date before the end of the night.”

He gave her a hopeful smile, his brown eyes still red-rimmed from unshed tears. Brynn fought back the defeated sigh that gathered in her throat. If he was staying awake on her account, he shouldn’t bother. She didn’t care how nice of a guy he was or how hot he probably looked naked. She was not going to be his rebound sex. Nothing like knowing a guy is closing his eyes in bed because he’s picturing someone else beneath him. Brynn took a long gulp from her glass.

“Speaking of which,” he said, reaching into the pocket of his jacket and pulling out his cell phone, “could you excuse me for a minute? I need to check in with the answering service.”

“No problem, take all the time you need.” Really, he could take as much time as he wanted because this date was over—sign the death certificate and slap a toe tag on it. Done.

After he strode off, Brynn pushed her chair away from the table and straightened the hem of her black-and-white shift dress as she stood. She needed something stronger than champagne.

She navigated through the crowd and the steady hum of polite conversation, pausing occasionally to smile and shake hands with donors. The Women’s Crisis Center of Dallas had a fund-raiser twice a year and, thanks to a very active board, had managed to snag a number of high-dollar supporters for this one. Good thing, considering her job was dependent on the generosity of these strangers. She grabbed a mini quiche off a passing waiter’s tray and shoved it in her mouth, hoping her obvious chewing would deter more people from stopping her to chat.

Brynn spotted a familiar face near the bar. Melody, her coworker, flipped her auburn hair over her shoulder and laughed at something the bartender said. Brynn walked over but hovered behind her for a moment, not wanting to interrupt Mel’s flirting. The woman was a master and seemed to have the young bartender sufficiently under her spell until another party guest pounded a fist on the counter and demanded a refill. With an apologetic smile, the bartender excused himself and Melody huffed.

Brynn tapped her on the shoulder. “Hey, girl, I haven’t seen you all night. Where’ve you been hiding?”

Melody turned around and grinned.

“Hey, I could say the same to you. Although, I have an idea of what’s keeping you busy.” She nodded toward Brynn’s table. “How’s it going with the yummy doctor? Are you ready to play nurse yet?”

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