Only Trick

by Jewel E. Ann

Chapter One

Health n: absence of disease and lack of stupidity.

My morning starts with a frequent flyer who hasn’t been able to find his pulse for over a week. His previous visit was for chest pain during masturbation after smoking crack, so I suggested he give up either the crack or masturbating. Next up, removal of a rotten tampon, followed by an examination for “chicken pox on a penis.” Hello herpes! Finally, while everyone else is actually saving lives, I’m given the old guy complaining of a tick on his butt, which turns out to be a Brach’s butterscotch stuck in his ass hair. The funny part … I’ve seen this patient numerous times and he has the most timid personality—a real “candy ass.”

I crack myself up!

The truth: I love my job. Puzzles for me over TV any day, but none have ever been as challenging and addictive as the mystical human body. My nana has an old cedar chest she calls the graveyard. It’s filled with baby dolls and stuffed animals that look like they’ve been maimed by a pack of wolves. Limbs that were cut and torn off then sewn back on, eye patches, bandages, toilet paper casts, and red fingernail polish aka dried blood—I received my calling early on.

As the piercing sirens draw near with a gunshot wound victim, my senses heighten. I feel stronger and faster while my vision sharpens and my skin tingles, like a numbing that makes me feel invincible to pain. I’m nearly panting like a dog waiting for its dinner; it’s possible I’m even drooling a little. Adrenaline: It’s my favorite drug.

“I’ve got this.” Dr. Ellis shoves two charts into my chest before strutting his authoritative, pompous ass toward the ER entrance like God has crowned him king for the day. “Abdominal pain in room one; sutures in three.”

Even in the adult world, bullies pop balloons. If I were a guy, I’d be grabbing my crotch looking for my balls. Yep, they’re there, shoe marks and all.

“He’s just pissed you’re with Ashby and not him. His shift ended ten minutes ago.” My straight-talking nurse, Jade, hands me a pen to sign off on a chart.

I huff out a fiery breath of evil contempt for all men. “Cute hair.” I glance up, forcing a small smile. She fluffs her short, bouncy, black curls.

“I decided to embrace my African-American heritage.”

I laugh, walking past her to the sutures in three. “That or you decided to try a new look for Doctor … What’s his name? Oh yes, Dr. I Buy Coffee For All The Nurses In Exchange For Blow Jobs. Please tell me you’re not falling for Creepy Creighton.

“You’re just bitter because you don’t drink coffee.”

“Well even if I did, it would never be that flavor. Sutures?”

Jade clears her throat. “Yeah, about that …”

I turn, a cliff’s edge away from the door to room three. “What about it?” Flipping open the chart, I read the medical history of Patrick Roth, age twenty-eight.

“He cut his hand, working on his bike.”

I glance up from the chart. “And?”

“He’s … intense.”

“Are you sweating?”

Jade swipes her fingers across her brow then looks at them. “No. Well maybe.” She steps closer, glancing around as if we’re surrounded by spies. “He’s a squirrel.”

I pull my head back, reclaiming my personal space. “He brought in a squirrel?”

Jade shuts her eyes, shaking her head. “No. He is a squirrel. Seriously, Darby? You don’t know that a hot-ass guy is called a squirrel?”

I close the chart. “What moron came up with that?”

“I’m getting you an Urban Dictionary for Christmas. How can you work in the heart of Chicago and not be well versed in streetwise lingo?”

Jade receives my best stink eye as I open the door.

Oh hell!

Jade walks on my heels like an unexpected speed bump, nudging me a step farther into the room than what my legs would voluntarily go on their own. She pinches my arm. “Told ya,” she whispers.

“Good—”

Good what? Good morning? Good afternoon? Good evening? Good God!

“Day … good day, Mr. Roth. I’m …” This is that moment, the one when you’re jogging down the sidewalk with a strong stride feeling fit, confident, and then it happens—trip. Maybe no more than a quarter inch crack that catches the toe of your shoe sending your legs into a flailing panic to keep your body vertical. That’s all it takes. One second to go from dauntless to dazed.

This “crack” and its colorful collage of ink canvasing skin over lean muscled arms holds my gaze captive, stopping time for a few awkward seconds. He’s just so …

“Ahem!” An elbow rams into my arm, jerking me out of my reverie—okay, flat out gawking. “Patrick, this is Darby Carmichael. She’s going to stitch you up and get you on your way.”

Dark, that’s the word. Dark hair strategically styled in at least a dozen conflicting directions. Dark brows and lashes, dark stubble, and hazel eyes pinning me with a piercing dark look.

“Uh … huh.”

The most kissable lips twitch, not a smile—more of an amused acknowledgment of me … Yes, me staring and using sounds like “uh … huh” instead of real words that an educated medical professional should use. Then I notice a pearly faded scar above his eye, one of those perfect imperfections that give character and story to a person.

“Darby?” Jade holds up a pair of blue nitrile gloves, ticktocking in front of my face.

Her voice muffles like an echo from underwater, the eerie world of submersion when you feel like you can hear blood running through your veins against the cadence of your heart. I suck in a breath, more like a gasp. Scrubbing my hands at the sink with thorough intensity, I try to find my stride again—my voice. If there is a God, I pray he will grant me a small shred of dignity to go with it. “Tell me what happened.” I dry my hands.

He holds up his hand wrapped in a blood-soiled towel. “Cut my hand … tightening a bolt.” Yep, his voice is just as dark as the rest of his suffocating sexiness. It’s deep with a slight raspy edge that allows me to actually feel it, not just hear it. He might as well have said, “I just dropped by to suck on your nipples.” Either way, I’m Frosty on a warm day—a guaranteed puddle on the floor by the time he leaves.