Best Of Three
Counting on Love, Book 3
Sometimes it takes a couple of tries before you get love right.
Emma Dixon is known for getting in over her head—and having a great time doing it. She’s aware her shenanigans rub Nate Sullivan the wrong way, but getting a rise out of the cocky surgeon is one of her favorite pastimes. Truth be told, exasperated looks aren’t the only things she wants from the guy.
Nate has no intention of taking another trip down the falling-in-love road. Women are carefully compartmentalized—to his bedroom. Women who don’t mind his take-charge tendencies. Women very different from sassy, sexy, independent Emma.
But his usual strategy of arguing with Emma to keep from kissing her goes out the window when his son falls in love with her friend’s daughter. Emma sees a normal teenage romance. Nate sees his plans for the boy’s future ruined.
As Nate tries to derail the relationship, Emma runs interference, putting herself directly in the path of the chemistry that grows stronger every time they butt heads. And that could very well lead to the best surprise of all.
Warning: Contains a guy who knows exactly who he is and what he wants and a girl who’s going to change his mind about, well, everything. Plus inappropriate use of chocolate cake (of course, that depends on your definition of inappropriate).
© copyright Erin Nicholas, 2013
“So, why don’t you ever ask me to take my clothes off?”
Nate Sullivan didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t act surprised, or amused or—most of all—interested. “Because X-rays can see through clothes.” He also didn’t lift his head from whatever he was putting into her medical record on the handheld computer.
Emma Dixon sighed. Nate was the one man in the world who looked at her with only exasperation. When he looked at her at all. She hated that she was attracted to him. “But it seems that you’re passing up a great opportunity.”
“Well, seeing women naked is why I went into medicine in the first place,” he said, dragging the pad of his index finger over the screen. “But then shattered bones won my heart and that’s the only thing I want to look at all day long now.”
And that bugged the crap out of her, Emma could admit. Not that she believed Nate didn’t like looking at naked women, but that he didn’t want to see her without her clothes. She wasn’t sure what to do with that. Men always wanted to see her without her clothes on.
“I know you’re not gay. You have Michael, after all,” she said, referring to Nate’s eighteen-year-old son. “Do you have trouble getting it up?”
Nate didn’t even blink as he continued tapping on the screen. He also didn’t look up.
Okay, that was low. Childish even. He just brought out the worst in her. She became this sad attention-seeking-low-self-esteem-over-compensating hormonal teenage girl that she hated when she was around him. She wanted to get a reaction from him. Always. Any time they were together.
“I even wore my pretty bra, in case you wanted to see me in one of those skimpy gowns,” she said, in spite of knowing she would not be proud of whatever came out of her mouth at that point.
Finally, he looked up and handed her a piece of paper. “Here’s a refill on the pain meds and no sex for six more weeks.” He completely ignored all of her attempts to rile him.
Emma looked at the prescription in her hand, then frowned at her surgeon. “You actually wrote that on the prescription?”
“Makes it official. This way, if you do it anyway and then come back in here complaining about how bad your hip hurts, I can officially say ‘told you so’.”
Emma resisted the urge to growl at him. Barely. “Seriously? It’s already been twelve weeks.”
He raised an eyebrow, in that very irritating you’re-acting-like-a-four-year-old way he had. She swore he only gave that look to her.
“Six more weeks.”
Nate Sullivan was cocky. Full of himself. Had a god complex. The whole nine yards. And he was completely and utterly immune to her charms. That made him more unique than the fact that he could put anyone back together again, no matter the trauma. It was thanks to him that she was now in one piece after the car accident and that she was walking again.
Knowing that she owed the guy who could make her bat-shit-crazy in under two minutes, made her…bat-shit-crazy.
“My physical therapist says that it’s ridiculous to still have a sex limitation after this long,” she said, folding the script and putting it in her pocket. She would fricking follow the damned thing because she would rather chew glass than hear “I told you so” from Dr. Sullivan.
“Does he?” Nate didn’t seem concerned. He was sliding her X-rays back into their envelope.
“He says that I won’t know what I can do until I try it.”
“You sure he was talking about sex and not jogging?”
“You said no jogging yet either.”
“He says that part of his job is to help me try the things that might be a challenge at first. You know, the whole physical therapy thing. He says I can try the new things out with him.”
That got Nate to look up. “Jogging, right?”
She leaned back, bracing her hands on the exam table behind her. God, there was something about him in that long lab coat and tie. She never saw him like that. He played football on the same amateur team as her brother, the Omaha Hawks, and he hung out with the guys afterward down at their favorite bar, Trudy’s, so she always saw him in uniform or jeans. And he looked very fine in both. But once he’d become her doctor—not that she’d had any say in that, having been unconscious and all at the time—she’d seen him dressed up and in charge. And damned if it didn’t make her tingle every time.
“Do you really think I need to wait six more weeks?”
She allowed a long pause before saying, “Sure. Jogging.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Yes. I think you need to wait six more weeks to…jog.”
She had no desire to jog. She hadn’t been a big fan of it before her accident and, frankly, the idea of landing on her hip and pelvis like that made her shudder. It didn’t hurt much anymore but it seemed she always expected it to.
Nate started to turn away, then stopped. She followed his gaze to what had caught his attention. Her cane.
“You walk around here like a know-it-all but you’ve never seen one of those?” she asked, her stomach knotting. She knew what he was going to say. It was the same thing her therapist had been saying for four weeks. She didn’t need the cane anymore.
And when they broke their pelvises, they could toss the cane after eight weeks if they wanted to. This was her recovery.
Instead of grilling or lecturing her, however, Nate pulled his cell phone from his jacket pocket, dialed and lifted it to his ear, all the while watching her. “This is Dr. Sullivan. I need to talk to Bruce.”
Her physical therapist. Great.
He didn’t even bother to greet Bruce. “Why is Emma Dixon still walking with a cane?”
He paused to listen, then said, “Get her off of it,” and hung up. He pocketed the phone and turned away, adding something to her medical record.
“Seriously? You don’t want to talk to me about it?”
“Bruce told me what I needed to know, and I told him what he needed to know,” Nate said without looking up.
She felt the knot of tension tighten. “What did he say?”
“You know better than anyone what he said, Emma.”
She felt her tummy flip at his use of her name. It was so stupid, but he rarely called her Emma, and never called her Em like everyone else did, so when he used her name, it always startled her. “He told you that he tried to get me off of it, but I won’t do it, right?”
“I don’t want to get rid of it yet. Why isn’t that okay?”
“Because it’s ridiculous. You can’t expect to make progress if you aren’t willing to try.”
“It’s okay for me to not have sex for six more weeks, but I can’t keep the cane?”
“Because in my professional opinion, that’s what needs to happen.”
God, he was frustrating. He was so damned bossy. She’d seen him yell and get riled up on the football field, but most of the rest of the time he seemed—stuck up. Conservative. Uptight. Something. She loved to try to rile him simply because it was so interesting to see him get worked up. She seemed to be the only one who could really get him going. He’d argue with her, when he’d shrug at everyone else who disagreed with him. She always loved sparring with him.
But she hadn’t imagined such a dominant, I’m-the-boss side of him.
And she certainly hadn’t imagined liking it.
“I’m not ready to get by without the cane yet,” she said. She could be equally stubborn. Ask any of her siblings.
“But you are ready for sex?”
Something about the way he said it, or was looking at her, or something, made her need to take a deep breath. “Maybe.”
“Is there someone that you’re dying to get back in bed with?”
But that was neither here nor there. Nor was it any of his business anyway. She didn’t have anyone she wanted to sleep with, but that didn’t mean she wanted to be ordered not to sleep with anyone by her annoying, I-know-better-than-everyone-else-in-the-world doctor.
She didn’t care if he did know better than everyone else in the world about her injury and its repair.
It was so strange, looking at him now, to think that he’d seen parts of her body that no one ever had and, god-willing, no one else ever would. That he’d had his hands inside her, putting her back together, was strangely intimate.
It was definitely that.
“Why do you want to know?” she asked. Did Nate truly care who she was sleeping with? Surely not.
“I would not be pleased to know that one of the physical therapists I refer to the most is having an inappropriate relationship with one of his patients.”
She frowned. “I’m not sleeping with Bruce.”
Nate seemed satisfied with that simple answer. Which also irritated her. If he cared, he didn’t care much.
“No sleeping with anyone for six weeks. At least,” Nate said.
She tipped her head, watching him, hating him for looking so good in a tie, hating herself for liking him in a tie. She didn’t go for guys in ties generally. She liked blue-collar guys, guys who worked with their hands. Her attention dropped to Nate’s hands and she had to swallow hard. He worked with his hands. He’d had his hands all over her. He’d worked for hours to make sure she was okay. Her life had been in his hands.
And she’d been unconscious for the whole thing.
And that disappointed her.
Which she freaking hated.
She’d been in a car accident. She’d been bloody and broken. He’d cut her open, for god’s sake. There wasn’t one damned thing about it that was sexy or hot. She needed to get a grip.
This was all a product of Nate being the one guy she couldn’t seduce. He could resist her. More, he could make her feel stupid and silly. She hated that more than anything else.
She slid off the table and slipped her sandals back on her feet. “I’m tired of that topic and I have my paper for more drugs, so I’m gonna head out.”
She pulled the hem of her top down—the top that Nate definitely did not want her to take off—and ran a hand through her hair. But as she twisted the doorknob, Nate again used her name.
Schooling her features before she turned, she gave him a bored look. “What?”
She hadn’t behaved since she was six. “See that’s where this doctor-patient thing stops working,” she told him, pulling the door open. “You can control my medication and you can bully my physical therapist. You can even keep me from all of my favorite workouts. But nobody has the power to make me behave.”
Take One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sie7DoRRWQY
Take Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9vk5bCCopI
Take Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaMuQytARZ8
Take Four: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7po7rJOJaX4