Dr Nathan Rey, general practitioner, has endured a case of broken heart syndrome for a handful of years and counting after his wild, bad-boy lover disappeared just before he received his license. Though it’s gotten easier -- one or two flights of erotic fancy a year instead of every night -- Nathan couldn’t say it’s gotten better. He still can’t forget the charismatic Fitz, and no one he’s met since then could begin to compare.
Still, Nathan’s certain he would someday stop daydreaming and move on. He would have found someone else. Filled the empty spots in his life, his heart and his home. His bed. That is, if his part-time nurse hadn’t eloped overnight. If, unable to find someone local right away, he hadn’t called upon the services of a temp agency. And if the nurse the agency sent to him, certified and licensed, had been anyone but Fitz himself, with far more than work on his mind.
Fitz means to convince Nathan seven years isn’t too long to wait for a second chance at the love of a lifetime. Love isn't easy and it's rarely simple. More often than not it takes practice. Lots of practice.
Publisher's Note: This book was previously available at a different house. It is being republished as book 1 in a new series for Changeling Press.
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It Takes Practice (Doctor, Doctor 1)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Willa Okati
“So, you think your temp’s a no-show?” Chelle asked. “Also, do you want me to stop on my way back into town Sunday and pick up your order from the medical supply store?”
“As for the latter, yes please, and thank you. As for the former? He’d better not be.” Nathan had the man’s résumé laid out within grabbing distance of his front door. A male nurse, not quite the oddity it used to be, but it’d still raise an eyebrow or two, especially out there in the hinterlands -- which perversely enough, he supposed, he loved. “Mike Smith.”
“Sounds like a used car salesman, not a nurse.” She paused. “Wasn’t that…”
Nathan clicked his tongue to stop her before she pushed right past the inch he was willing to give when it came to the past, and claimed herself a mile. There were some roads he didn’t care to go down again. Ever. “It’s a common enough name. Plain and sensible.” He upended a basket and shook it until it rattled, watching mismatched socks fall in a perverse resemblance to autumn leaves. Fuzzy, lint specked leaves. “Honest to God, did the washer and dryer eat all my shirts?”
“Look in the closet. Where clothes usually live. There’ll be at least two you forgot you had from the last time you were on your own.”
Nathan stopped. She was right. He remembered now.
Chelle took his silence for its precise worth and pounced. “You know what you need? A keeper. A wife. Better yet, a wife who’s a nurse.”
“Excuse me?” He slipped the phone out from between ear and shoulder and stared briefly at it. “Chelle, there are so many things wrong with what you’ve just said I hardly know where to start. Besides, wife? Woman?”
“Wife doesn’t have to mean woman.”
“It does if you look in a dictionary.”
“Dictionaries are far too restrictive.”
Nathan pinched the bridge of his nose and lied through his teeth. It wasn’t too difficult. He’d had plenty of practice. “Not that you’re going to believe me, but I swear to you, wardrobe malfunctions aside, Chelle, I’m fine on my own. I like it this way.”
Her eloquent snort was her only reply. For a moment. He held his breath and hoped.
“You have to get over Fitz sometime, Nathan.”
Ah. Unfortunately, wishes weren’t horses and no one would be getting a ride. Fitz. Just hearing his name spoken aloud… Nathan hadn’t thought about Fitz in… years, probably. He’d got better when it came to dreaming about him, too. Once or twice a year. As opposed to, say, every night.
“Seven years is a long time to nurse a grudge. Or carry a torch. I never could tell which.”
You and me both, Nathan thought, but refused to give voice. He couldn’t quite see her letting him live that one down.
She had more to say, but, thank God, necessity picked her moment. Had he heard… Nathan muted Chelle momentarily to listen. A scratchy sound, not unlike a saw in need of sharpening. Someone on the porch? Doorbell might be on the fritz again. “Leave it alone, Chelle. I’m good the way I am.”
“Alone and celibate? Nathan.”
Oh hell. Her serious tone. He waited for it.
“You shouldn’t be alone. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Not something I have to worry about.”
“Patients don’t count.”
“In what world? Women,” he grumbled, hand on the doorknob. “Forget Fitz. Fitz has nothing to do with this. I promise you, the person doesn’t exist who could be a partner in both senses of the word. Find them, or let them find me, and then we’ll talk. I’m answering the door, by the way.” He spotted the flutter of pale blue scrubs in the glass pane at the side of his front door. Finally. “It’s the nurse. At least, it had better be…”
And it was.
He didn’t recognize the man at first. There was no reason he should have. Not until he grinned, lazy and easy, settled back on his heels, and the surface trappings of a decade’s wear and tear faded away like silk webbing in a strong wind. No piercings. No beard, no goatee, either scruffy or neat. His short hair stood up in artfully disheveled twists and spikes, the color a gradient shading of blond and brown that shone red in the sun.
But the eyes. The eyes had it, even without a lining of kohl.
“Who is it?” he heard Chelle asking. “Nathan? Everything okay?”
Nathan licked his lips. “I’m fine. It’s just the nurse,” he said, amazed he could come up with that much, but even those few words emerged rough and raspy.
The man tilted his head back to look up at Nathan, still grinning. Never a care in the world. “Nathan. Long time no see.”
“Nathan?” Chelle paused, then laughed. “Good Lord, how hot is he? Must be something to knock you quiet.”
“You could say that.” Nathan couldn’t feel his lips. His tongue buzzed. Decision made. “I’m going to have to call you back.” He’d disconnected almost before he’d finished. She’d panic, she’d be pissed off, and she’d call him back to tear him a new one, but that could all wait. It had to.
Because -- years later than promised -- Fitz was on his doorstep.
Nathan stared. “You.”
“Me.” Fitz settled on the doorstep, his stance wide and his weight balanced. He could hold that pose for hours and there’d be no budging him before he was ready to move. Nathan remembered that about him, and more with every passing second under that frank gaze.