A loud crash and the sound of glass shattering cut her off, and my head snapped toward the bar. Our bartender, the guy with the eyes, was leaning over, gripping his leg. Blood trickled toward his ankle, and shards of the broken bottle surrounded his feet in a puddle of fizzy pink wine.
I leaned over the bar. “Are you okay?” I shouted.
He looked over at me. “I’m bleeding.”
“I see that.” I glanced at Kelly, looking for permission.
“Go,” she said, waving her hand. “Be the superhero. We’ll talk later.”
“No.” I grabbed my purse and headed toward the injured patient. “Come with me. We’ll talk while I clean him up.”
The bartender’s eyes widened in shock and concern. “What?”
“I’m a doctor.” I motioned to one of the waiters working the tables. “Can someone clean this up, please?”
The bartender tilted his head in disbelief as his eyes scanned my ensemble.
“She is a doctor,” Kelly said, glancing at her phone, “and a damn expensive one, too. Consider yourself lucky.”
“Where’s the manager’s office?” I asked, glancing around.
“That way.” The bartender nodded toward a closed door in the hallway off to the right of the bar.
Kelly and I each wrapped one of the bartender’s arms around our shoulders—which had to look pretty laughable, because he had a good five inches on me and way more than that on Kelly—and walked him toward the office. People called out, offering to help, but I waved them off. I didn’t need their assistance. Asking to help me with a little cut was like volunteering to help LeBron James with his dribbling.
“What’s your name, by the way?” I asked. “I should probably know it, if I’m going to do surgery on you.”
“Surgery?” he said.
“She’s exaggerating,” Kelly said.
“Dax,” the bartender said.
“Nice to meet you, Dax,” I said as I opened the office door. “I’m Annie.”
“And you might as well know that I’m Kelly, since we’re bonded for life by blood now.”
I felt Dax shudder under my arm. I calmly patted his hand. “It’s okay. You’re going to be fine. It’s just a little cut.” I was very used to big strong men getting squeamish around blood, needles, or knives. One of my patients—a Cubs third baseman—once fainted in my office when I had to lance a boil on his foot.
Kelly and I eased Dax into the desk chair. Then I ducked into the private bathroom and washed my hands. There was a first aid kit on the shelf above the sink.
I snapped on a pair of latex gloves from the first aid kit and stepped out of the bathroom. “I’m going to take good care of you, Dax, but I can multitask. I want to hear what my friend was about to say right before you smashed a bottle into your leg.”
“I didn’t smash a bottle into my leg.”
I ignored him. “Kelly?”
She snuck a peek at Dax. “You really want to talk about this now?”
“Of course.” I sanitized a pair of tweezers with alcohol and knelt on the floor to see the wound better. “This should be no problem.” I’d slipped into full doctor mode. “The glass is right at the surface.” I glanced up at my friend. “Go ahead, Kel.”
She folded her arms across her chest.
I patted Dax’s knee. “You’re doing great.”
Dax drew in an audible breath and held it.
I slowly extracted the sliver of glass and dropped it into the garbage can next to the desk. “Hard part’s done.”
“Great. So I can get back to work now?” Dax moved to stand, but I pushed him down, resting my hand for a hot moment on his ample pectoral.
Butterflies invaded my stomach, but I tamped them down. I was a professional, and this guy was way too young for me to even think about behaving unprofessionally with.
“You’re almost done,” I said, and he grunted in annoyance. “Just need to clean out the wound and bandage it. Seriously, Kelly. Talk.”
I looked over at her. She still had her arms folded in annoyance, and she kept tapping her foot like she was urging me to hurry up. Kelly didn’t normally get pissed at me—not like Yessi did. The two of us were so alike, we often butted heads. But Kelly was supposed to be the easygoing member of our trio.
I dabbed some antibiotic ointment on Dax’s leg. “Did I do something, Kel?”
“No,” she said, “of course you didn’t do anything. I’m going to head home. I’m not in a bar mood anymore.” Before I could stop her, she rushed out of the office.
“You definitely did something.”
I glanced up at my patient. A scar bisected one of his eyebrows, and I wondered for a moment what happened there. “Thanks. Yeah, I know.”
“You know what it is?”
“Not a clue.” I carefully placed a bandage on Dax’s ankle. “She just got home—we’re roommates; she lives in my basement—and I was so excited to have her around again, because I’d been so lonely while she was gone, but now she won’t even talk to me, and I’m not even sure what I did.” I paused.
“Am I good here?” Dax asked after a beat.
He actually didn’t care about any of this, not that I could blame him. I patted his ankle and stood. “All better.”
He slowly rose from the chair, and his blue eyes met mine, knocking the breath right out of me. God, he was pretty. If I were ten years younger…heck, who was I kidding? If I were ten years younger, I still wouldn’t have the guts to go for a guy with that many tattoos. He’d probably think I was a huge dork. But, then again, was I just imagining it, or was he looking at me like he wanted me for a snack? I tucked some hair behind my ear. I think he might kiss me. I subtly licked my lips.
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said.
Thud. That sound was my ego crashing to the ground.
I was in a bar, made up and dressed to the nines (or, well, maybe like the six-point-fives) with my Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman legs on full display, and this twenty-something bartender called me ma’am.
“You’re very welcome, sir,” I said as he limped toward the door.
With his hand on the knob, he turned around and said, “You know, maybe your friend isn’t responsible for your loneliness.”
“Okay, pal,” I said sarcastically. Who said something like that to a stranger? “Thanks for the tip.”
He left the room, and I finished cleaning up and putting the first aid kit away. How dare this young guy give me life advice? He didn’t know me. And besides, Kelly and I were fine. She was simply having a hard time tonight, readjusting to her old life.
Tomorrow was another day, and we’d be back on track.
(C) Julie Hammerle, Entangled Publishing, 2021. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
USA Today bestselling author Julie Hammerle brings a fun and flirty take to the older heroine, exploring what happens when you make a marriage pact with not one but two men…
Never drink and text. This was something Dr. Mallory Kyle probably should’ve learned long ago. But thanks to med school, her thriving career, and an unwavering devotion to her friends and family, she had to wait until she turned forty to get that lesson.
During a sad, lonely, wine-fueled night, Mal messages two of her exes, men she promised to marry if they found themselves still single when they hit forty. Both guys write her back immediately. They’re in. They’re sick of the single life, too, and want to settle down.
Mal has a simple decision to make between comfortable Rob, the boy next door, and exciting Darius, her dashing high school boyfriend. But when another guy gets thrown into the mix—Dax, the sullen, young musician/bartender at the pub around the corner—Mal realizes this love quadrangle might be more than she bargained for.
About Julie Hammerle
USA Today best-selling, RITA nominated author, Julie Hammerle writes romantic comedies for adults and teens. Before settling down to write “for real,” she studied opera, taught Latin, and held her real estate license for one hot minute. Currently, when not writing, she ropes people into conversations about Game of Thrones and makes excuses to avoid the gym. Her favorite YA-centric TV shows include 90210 (original spice), Felicity, and Freaks and Geeks. Her music playlist reads like a 1997 Lilith Fair set list.
She lives in Chicago with her husband and her two kids.