Where We Meet Again (Arrow Creek 1)

Page 55

“Hey, how’s it going?”
The clank of my locker echoes around us as I open it to put my purse and coat away.
“Things are good. Glad to have you back. How’s the foot?” He glances to where I switch out my winter boots for my work ones.
“Much better.” I flex the foot back and forth as if to prove it. “Still bruised, and I’ve been taping it. The stretches the doctor told me to do have helped a lot.”
“Good. I didn’t want to have to pull your dead weight around or anything. Although, it wouldn’t be much different than working with Ralph the past week. The man does a shit job.”
I widen my eyes at him. “That’s not nice. Just because he refuses to leave the driver’s seat on most calls and won’t walk up more than five stairs at a time, doesn’t mean he’s a bad medic.”
“Um, yes it does.” Nathan climbs out of the cab and into the back to take inventory.
“Yeah, you’re right. Sorry I left you hanging like that.” I strap my radio on and stroll around the back when Nathan suddenly jumps out. My heart skips a beat. “Good god, could you warn a person first?”
“Where’s the fun in that? Speaking of leaving me hanging, I’ve been thinking about the date you cancelled.”
Oh, shit. I close the doors on the back of the rig. “It wasn’t a date.”
“Then rescheduling shouldn’t be an issue, since friends hang out all the time.” He grins at me. His confidence really sucks sometimes. If he were even a little unsure of himself, it would be easier to tell him no. As it is, he knows he’s being cute.
I went fourteen years without a single man in my life, and in the span of a few weeks, I’m overwhelmed by two of them. What in the hell, universe? Come on.
“Nathan,” I sigh. “I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t like you. We get along great. It’s just, I need to keep my work and personal life separate. This is all I’ve got going for Evelyn and me. I started working here in reception at seventeen. I don’t know how to do anything else. If things were to sour between us, I’d have nowhere else to go. And you know how much I need this job.”
His face is a wash of concern, sympathy, and understanding.
“That said, we can go out as friends for New Year’s Eve. Get fancy, have some drinks, dance. You’re welcome to bring some friends.”
He rubs the back of his neck. “If it’s the best you can do, I’ll take it for now. Maybe I can get you to change your mind.”
I reach out and pat his bicep. “You can’t. I’m sorry to be blunt, but I’m not going to string you along. After what you went through with your wife, you deserve a good woman. One who’ll treat you right.” My hand falls to my side, and I climb in the passenger door. Our radios click from dispatch with a call about a car accident. Saved by the bell. I lean out my window and slap the side of the vehicle. “Climb in partner! Time to work!”
Nathan hops in the driver’s side and rolls his eyes as he fires the ambulance to life. “Even if I wasn’t your partner, I could tell you’ve been off work for a while. Nobody is that enthusiastic about this job. Ever.”
“I can’t help it. I’ve been so bored.”
“Right. New rule. If you aren’t going to go out with me, you’ve gotta stop being so damn cute.”
That’s a compliment I’ll let him get away with.
Nathan pulls out of the garage. The siren whoops to warn the cars waiting at the intersection we’re coming, and the red and blue lights flash continuously. We are on our way.
Our relationship seems mostly back to normal. One thing I like most is how genuine he is. He doesn’t hold a grudge for something he has no control over. He also doesn’t make me uncomfortable for turning him down.
I’ll never admit it out loud, but I haven’t completely locked away the idea of dating him. There’s a minor attraction there, one I refused to acknowledge until he kissed me in the emergency room.
It’s just that my life is too crazy now that Law’s back. My emotions are on overdrive, and I don’t have that first clue to what it means seeing him again. For years, I committed myself to being alone, and I was content with the picture I conjured of that life. I’d long forgotten about living a life of love. The love from Evelyn had been enough. It still is.
Something stirred inside of me when Law came back. The more time he spends around flirting with the possibility of being together, the more open I become to exploring what that means. I also consider the likelihood of that need sticking around if Law and I don’t work out any farther than what we’ve been these past couple months.
When I left home, I was still a child. Then I had a child of my own. Those first years were a whirlwind. They are for every new parent. It threw me into figuring out how to manage my responsibilities and how to raise an infant at the same time. Two tasks many thirty-year-old’s struggle with separately. How I figured them out together as a teen
, I’ll never know.
Focus overrode every aspect of my life. Evelyn was my number one priority, and in putting her there, the others fell into line. Next came the job, which was tied into money, and that money branched out into paying for bills and necessities. After the necessities came her wants, and my wellbeing fell somewhere behind that. Sex wasn’t even on the table, let alone trying to manage a relationship. After the night I conceived Evelyn, I’d convinced myself I’d never be vulnerable enough to have sex again. In my experience, it had been a game of manipulation. One I could never win, because I’d never be an experienced player.
That’s what I convinced myself. Then I blinked. And fourteen years had gone by.