And my elbow clocked him on the side of the head.
Down went Jude Owens, the greatest crush and curse of my twenty-nine years of life.
The bra sprung free, tumbling onto his lap as he sat on the ground. Oh, hell. He could keep it. He’d earned it.
Maybe this was all a dream. I’d click my heels three times and wake up with the ruby slippers jammed in my mouth. Or maybe I’d wear them while I begged the wizard for a functional brain, a non-palpitating, lovesick heart, or a goddamned backbone so I could finally tell Jude how I felt about him.
“I am so sorry.” I knelt beside him on the ground.
“Guess I’ve fallen head over heels for you, Doc.”
“Elbows over ass is more like it.”
He rubbed his head, shaking away whatever cobwebs I struck loose. There couldn’t be too many. Jude’s brain had been battered, bruised, and bombarded with his last injury. It was a miracle he was even walking, let alone thinking of playing another season.
Jude plucked my bra from his lap and smirked. Of course the lacy material would be harlot red. Something sultry, sexy, and the only thing that had still fit. It was better suited for a naughty nurse fantasy than a struggling resident completing her fellowship.
He handed me the bra. “Isn’t the patient supposed to strip for the doctor?”
“I’ll put some music on.”
“Good thing Magic Mike was the only movie ever on in the hospital.”
“Picked up some new moves?”
“I’ll either burn the defensive line or seduce them. Either way, it should be an interesting season.”
I helped him to his feet and ensured all parts of me were covered. “You’re serious about this?”
“Well…about the season.” His smile was familiar, comforting. “I’m still not that great of a dancer.”
“You’re going to play?”
“I’m signing with the Rivets as soon as the staff neurologist clears me to play. Couldn’t have asked for a better reunion .”
My stomach twisted, but not for the usual reason. I tried to count the years on my fingers. He’d been drafted the same year as Eric, but my step-brother could handle a few more seasons.
“But this is your…twelfth season.”
“Are you sure you want to put yourself through this again? Everyone thought you wanted to retire after…you know.”
“Cole Hawthorne’s hit. I know. The whole team is talking about it, trying to make some sort of peace between me and Cole. But there’s no bad blood. Cole visited me in the hospital specifically to apologize. Everything about that hit is in the past.”
Or so he thought, but I’d studied the MRIs, scans, and tests of players suffering from concussions far less severe than Jude’s. The worst wasn’t behind him—it was yet to come. Ten, fifteen, twenty years into the future.
“You’re sure you want to do this?” I tossed the bra away. The damn thing arced over the desk and draped on the degree hanging on the wall. I’d never make that shot again.
“Absolutely. I know I have another season left in me.” Jude’s grey eyes hardened without being intimidating. Confident, but not arrogant.
And more than a little naïve.
“Don’t you think—”
“I’m only signing a one-year deal, just for a shot at the championship.” Jude ran a hand through his hair. “How crazy is this? I never thought I’d be one of your patients.”
“I hoped you wouldn’t be. I usually only work with injured people.”
“Good thing I’m fully recovered. I’m surprised though—Eric didn’t say you were working for the Rivets.”
I chuckled. “It’s only my first day. And you know better than to get your information from Eric—he couldn’t tell neurology from nephrology.”
“He was always an unsophisticated boor.”
“You don’t know what nephrology is, do you?”
“Raising skeletons and people from the dead?”
“Could have studied that. What would Regan have said?”
I snorted. “My step-mother hasn’t forgiven me for not going into pediatrics like her. Or getting the same grades as her. Working through med school, like her. Becoming an accomplished pianist, like her…”
Jude grinned. “Well, you know I’m proud of you, Rory. You got your degree. Made it this far. You have one hell of a future ahead of you.”
Sure, I hopped out of med school and was about to dive into Lamaze classes. Definitely not what I had in mind.
“Well, you’re my last patient of the day,” I said.