I shake my head ruefully. Christine is our office manager. She’s not robbing us blind because we’re audited each year, and the external accountants would have detected any irregularities by now. But still, I know what Ranger’s saying. He and I practice medicine, but we were never trained to be businessmen. That’s why running our own practice is challenging. It’s like we have to be managers on top of seeing patients, and that’s not exactly something you’re ready to do after performing a face lift and a rhinoplasty within the last twelve hours.

Adding Bethany to the staff has really helped. For one, she’s sharp. The girl is a whiz at numbers, and she’s impressed us more than once, in ways we didn’t expect.

“I’m paying just a little over twenty percent in taxes this year,” she mused at dinner one day. The three of us have taken to eating dinner together each night, and that Wednesday, we were sitting around the coffee table in my apartment with Chinese take-out on the glass table. She’s comfortable with us and was feeding us bits of cashew chicken while biting down into the crackly rice paper that came with our salad.

I laughed in surprise at her remark. Not many women like to talk about taxes, but not our Bethany. She’s got a mind like a steel trap, and best of all, she’s not afraid to show it.

“Really? Only twenty percent?” I ask. “I thought taxes would run something around thirty-five percent for someone in your income bracket.”

She smiles at me coyly while popping another fry into her mouth.

“Ryder, you’re talking about the marginal tax rate, which is how much tax you pay on the last dollar you earn. Sure, I pay something like thirty-eight percent on my last dollar, but my effective tax rate is about twenty percent,” she says with a smile. “Look it up.”

I shake my head.

“Trust me baby, after a fourteen hour day at the office, the last thing I’m going to do is to look up IRS guidelines.”

She giggles a bit.

“I know, big guy, and I totally get it. But this is important, so I’ll forward you some primers on basic tax law. They read really easy,” she says in gentle voice. “It’ll go down like sugar.”

This time, Ranger shakes his head.

“No sweetheart, no need. Trust me, I’m not going to crack open a book with fine print on the weekend unless it has to do with new techniques in plastic surgery. But tell me, how did you learn all this?” he asks. “I thought you studied insects at school.”

“I did,” she chirps, shooting us a saucy grin. “But everyone should know the basics about taxes because they’re just a fact of life. Otherwise, you’re going to let Uncle Sam rob you blind,” she scolds. “And the two of you make so much too! You can’t let some random accountant do your taxes for you.”

I let out a gusty sigh. Bethany’s wormed herself into our life to the point where she knows how much we make. It makes sense though, since she’s practically running Epinine behind the scenes now. Plus, she guessed right. In fact, we have been using a random accountant each year because we didn’t have any other options.

“Sweetheart, are you volunteering to do our taxes for us?” I ask teasingly. Then I stop. “Have you been doing your own taxes each year actually? You don’t use someone?”

Bethany lets out a merry laugh, her beautiful pink pout parting to reveal a pearly smile. But those brown eyes grow wide, and soften.

“Yes, of course I do my own taxes,” she says. “Well, sort of. I use Turbo Tax, which is really easy. Trust me, for a W-2 employee like me, tax preparation software is the answer. But I definitely can’t do your taxes for you because you’re a partnership, so there are probably a bunch of rules and regulations for that that I’m not familiar with. But I can help oversee your accountant if you want,” she offers. “I’d be their point of contact and look over what they do to make sure they keep things honest.”

I’m appreciative and astonished. Bethany’s only twenty-five, and yet she’s already so astute. She’s offering to supervise the tax prep for our business? Yes please, sign me up right away because this is huge. We trust her, and know that she’ll do her best for us. Everyone else who works for Epinine is probably goofing off and barely doing the minimum to get by, but under Bethany’s watchful eye, I have a feeling everything’s going to run smoother and better. Not to mention the weight that’s going to come off our shoulders knowing that Bethany’s in charge.

I guess that’s part of the reason why we’re so grateful she’s come into our lives. The idea originally started as a marketing job, but she’s proven so skilled and adaptable that she’s basically become our de facto CEO. Bethany’s the one calling the shots at Epinine now. She runs our numbers, she manages the staff, and supervises everything from building services to medical billing. It’s not easy because she’s managing a staff of about fifteen now, but she’s doing it well. Ranger and I are able to focus on practicing our best medicine now, which suits us just fine.

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