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Dr. Russell has a bad reputation around our hospital. The scrub techs say he’s cold-blooded, the nurses say he’s too cocky for his own good, and the residents say he’s the best surgeon in the world—really, just a swell guy!—on the off chance he’s within earshot.
I try to avoid him and his temper at all costs. It’s just as easy to admire his sexy, grip-it-while-he’s ravishing-you hair and chiseled jaw from a healthy distance, preferably from the other end of the hallway half-hidden behind a plant.
Unfortunately, my plan crumbles when my trusty ol’ boss decides to swap his white coat for a Hawaiian shirt. His retirement leaves me with two terrible options: switch specialties and spend months retraining, or take an open position as Dr. Russell’s surgical assistant.
That means I have to stand near him in the OR for hours on end and anticipate his every need without letting his biting words and bad attitude intimidate me. Oh, and as if that’s not difficult enough, my silly crush on him—the one I’ve tried to stomp on until it disappears—might just be reciprocated.
I take my job seriously. There will be no smoldering bedroom eyes across the operating table, no angry almost-kisses in the storage closet. (Well, no more of those.)
What’s the phrase? An apple a day keeps the doctor away?
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I wonder what other people my age are doing at this very moment.
Scrolling through Tinder?
Hitting the town with their squad?
I don’t have a squad.
I have a little sister. She’s squashed against me on the couch so we can both see my computer screen. Reruns of Grey’s Anatomy play out in high definition. Dr. McDreamy’s hair is thick and shiny. I want to run my finger across the screen, but I resist.
On my face is green sludge. It’s supposed to be a homemade face mask. Josie whipped it up a few minutes ago and swore to me that when we wipe it off, we’ll look like movie stars. I’m pretty sure she’s wrong, and worse, she might have wasted our last avocado. I was going to slice it onto some rice and call that a well-balanced dinner. Looks like I’ll have to get creative.
Two doctors start tearing off each other’s scrubs on my computer screen. They’re about to get it on, and I hold up my hand to cover Josie’s eyes.
“You’re too young to be watching this.”
It’s a joke. We’ve already watched a million episodes and at least half a million raunchy sex scenes.
Josie swats my hand away and turns up the volume. Our living room is now filled with moans and groans. Maybe I’m not such a good guardian.
“Are your friends at school allowed to watch shows like this?” I ask, suddenly racked with guilt. We should be watching nature documentaries on PBS, penguins waddling around on snow accompanied by the soothing sound of Morgan Freeman’s voice.
“Are you kidding?” she asks, not taking her eyes off the screen. “People at my school are doing stuff like this.”
I’m horrified by the idea of fourteen-year-olds partaking in any physical activity beyond holding hands.
“Promise me you won’t touch a boy until you’re eighteen.”
She rolls her eyes and holds up her pinky. I wrap my own around it, and just like that, we have a pact. I can breathe easier now.
Once the credits roll, I stand up to wash my face, hoping at the very least this weird concoction hasn’t caused me to break out in an angry rash. I have work in the morning and I’d rather not be the laughing stock of the hospital.
Josie trails after me and hogs half the sink.
“Is it really like that? Are doctors all over each other in the on-call room?”
“I’ve already told you—that stuff never happens.”
I meet her gaze in the mirror and pass her the towel after I pat my face dry. No angry boils yet. That’s a good sign.
“Right, okay, maybe not the really crazy stuff, but I bet you’ve caught people making out in the supply closet once or twice.”
“What about having sex in the locker room?”
“Stolen glances in the operating room?” she asks, her tone growing desperate.
“Josie, Grey’s Anatomy is a television show—scripted drama, pretend love. Don’t read too much into it.”
She sighs, deeply annoyed. “What about the surgeons?” She drops the towel and turns toward me. Her hands grip my arms and I can’t break free. She’s surprisingly strong for someone so scrawny. “Are any of them even half as cute as Dr. McDreamy?”
“Most of them are old men. Gray hair, mustaches, bellies like Santa Claus. You’ve seen my boss.”
I pry her hands off me and then head to the kitchen. We’re low on pretty much everything, but I don’t get paid until Tuesday. Tuna fish sandwiches it is…again.
“Ugh, seriously? No one is even remotely good-looking?!”
I’m distracted because I’m currently in a fight with the can opener, so I don’t think before I answer her. “There is one…”
She leaps across the kitchen, yanks the can of tuna out of my hand, and stares up at me with wide, expectant eyes. “Who?”
“I don’t know his name.”
“What does he look like?”
“Tall. Brown hair.” I shrug.
Devastatingly handsome is the key phrase I’m leaving out. Arrogant and jerk are another two words I’m better off not saying.
I’m being evasive on purpose because my sister is a little precocious and a whole lot scary. Within three seconds, she has my computer open on the couch and is scrolling through the Staff tab on the hospital’s website. I know from late-night stalking that it’s organized alphabetically, which is why she yells from the other room, “What’s his last name?”
I cough to cover up another lie. “I can’t recall.”
I pop two pieces of bread in the toaster and get out the mayonnaise, wondering how long it will take her to find him without my help.
“BAILEY, what department?!”
I continue ignoring her. Her fingers are really flying in there. The keys are probably popping off my laptop.
The toast pops up just as I hear her audible intake of breath.
“I FOUND HIM!”
My stomach drops.
“Dr. Matthew C. Russell!” She starts scrolling through his bio quickly. “Medical school at UT Southwestern. Residency at UCLA. Fellowship in complex spine and another in pediatric scoliosis, yada yada. Who cares?! I don’t know what half those words mean. Are there more pictures of him other than this headshot? Maybe ones from a beach vacation?”