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Eli (Sinful Shadows Mafia #2)
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I wanted out of the life.
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“Code White, E.R. Hallway. All attending staff in the vicinity, please report. Code White, E.R. Hallway. All attending staff in the vicinity, please report.”
I blew on the steam wafting up from my coffee as the intercom kicked on. I grinned as I leaned back, taking a sip of the cream-laden liquid. I was much too far away from my point of origin, the hospital E.R. Lennox Hospital E.R., to be exact. And as terrible as it sounded, I purposefully crossed the entire hospital just to get coffee on my break in the lounge room on the opposite end.
That way, if shit like this popped off during my fifteen-minute break, I wasn’t required to report.
“Ditching the E.R. again, I see.”
I smiled as my co-worker, Janie, sat down across from me. An older woman. Bigger. She’d worked in this hospital her entire life. Thirty years under her belt and slowly staring down the barrel of retirement. She unwrapped her banana and broke off half of it, handing it over to me.
“That’s all right. I’ve never been a banana fan,” I said.
“Bad sign for your third dates, I tell ya.”
My jaw dropped open at her comment. No matter how innocent Janie looked–with her salted hair and her tip of the nose glasses–she was as dirty as they came. A chronically single cougar who prowled the streets of New York City on her days off, she rocked a bodycon dress better than most. If she wasn’t saving for her retirement or paying bills, she was constantly filtering her money to her plastic surgeon. Everything about her was fake. And yet, the only thing I saw on her body that genuinely seemed ‘not real’ were her breasts.
Because hot damn, natural breasts didn’t sit that high.
“And speaking of third dates, have you heard from that boo-boo of yours yet?” Janie asked.
“No, not yet. And trust me, I’ve been checking my phone during this shift.”
“Well, just keep in mind you do work the night shift. He’s probably sleeping.”
“Or out partying,” I murmured.
“Oh, come on now. You know how you met him.”
“I know, I know,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“You can’t expect a party boy to not party if you met him while partying.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s been your life motto.”
“And don’t you forget it.”
Janie tossed me a wink and it made me giggle. I shook my head at her as she sipped her coffee, eating her banana in ways that made married men in the cafeteria stare. I swear, whenever she policed a floor, I heard men shouting ‘hallelujah’ from the doorways of those they were visiting in our facility. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone, checking to see if he’d messaged. Or called. Or left me any sort of voicemail at all.
And still, he hadn’t.
“How long has it been?” Janie asked.
“Four days,” I said.
“Since the date?”
“And you haven’t heard from him at all?”
“I got a text message that morning saying he’d had a wonderful time. But, nothing after that.”
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing. Just weird. And you didn’t put out?” she asked.
“No,” I said flatly.
“I mean, not sure how he had a wonderful time, but okay.”
I threw a napkin at her before the two of us fell apart in giggles. I blew on my coffee again, feeling it heat up in my hands. Like it was still sitting under a damn heating lap. I slipped my cell phone back into my pocket, feeling it burn a hole against my thigh. I really liked this guy. He was charming. Sweet. A go-getter, with bombastic dreams. A lot like me. Always dreaming. Always wanting to travel. But, held down his life. Paid his bills. Didn’t come attached with baby mama drama or any children he had to field.
That was a rare find in New York City.
“Have you ever wanted to settle down after Russ?” I asked.
Janie sighed before she sipped her coffee. I knew she hated it when I brought up her late husband. She didn’t like talking about his death. But, part of me wondered why a strong, beautiful woman like herself never longed to have another lifetime partner.
I mean, it wasn’t like she didn’t have her pick of the litter.
“I just didn’t want to. I don’t believe in people having a second chance on love,” Janie said.
“You don’t think people can fall in love more than once?” I asked.
“Oh, I know they can. I’ve loved every man I’ve ever slept with. Ever dated. Ever danced with. I’ve loved something about them from the second we make eyes across the crowded club. Or bar. Or dance floor. Or beachside bar.”
“I get your point,” I said, giggling.
“No, you don’t. My point is, people don’t know what love is when it comes to a marriage. Love today is all sex, drinking, grinding, and one-night stands. That’s love nowadays. Marriage is a whole different kind of love. It’s dedication, and crying late at night. It’s sticking by someone even when you don’t want to look at them. It’s yearning for them to be next to you, even if they’re just in the other room. It’s a deep well of despair and happiness and lust and laughter and sadness and elation. ‘Love’ doesn’t even begin to encompass the kind of respect and dedication it takes to be married. And I believe, with all my heart, people only have one person on this planet they can truly find that passion and dedication alongside.”