Read Firstborn Online

Authors: Carrigan Fox

Firstborn (6 page)

Will had dated Dianne’s younger sister in high school, and he had even attended Dianne’s wedding to her own high school sweetheart.  He had been seventeen at the time and had been given his first beer by the
groom that night.  He remembered how happy they both were and couldn’t imagine the grief that followed the accident that had killed her husband and her teenage son.

Finally, the
daughter spoke up.  “I’m glad that you weren’t killed in the accident,” she whispered.  And although the words were directed at her mother, she could not pull her eyes away from her thoroughly chewed cuticles.

Dr. Archer studied the mother’s expression, noting the instantaneous tears that filled her eyes when she answered, “Oh, Corinne, I don’t know what I would have done if I had lost you too.”

He cleared his throat, partly to interject and partly to clear the emotional knot that had formed.  The car accident that had claimed the lives of the girl’s father and brother had destroyed both women, and they were now fighting to get well again and become a family again.  After seven months of individual sessions, Will had finally suggested that they come together for a session.  “The important thing to remember is that you didn’t lose each other.  Both of you survived for a reason, and that reason might simply be to support each other and help each other through this.  For the past seven months, you have each existed in your own exclusive world of pain.”

Both women nodded in agreement. 

“You now need to be able to lean on each other.  And perhaps it’s too early to celebrate your lives, but I think it’s long past time that you stop dwelling on the tragedy.  Honor your family by living.”

Dianne Huntley sniffled and reached for her daughter’s hand.  When she didn’t respond, Will simply asked, “Cori?”

She looked at him sharply and then turned to her mother with fresh tears threatening to fall from her own eyes.  She wiped impatiently at them and then nodded with a new and relatively fierce determination before taking her mother’s hand.

“I want you both to try to enjoy parts of the next week together.  I don’t want to see you again until next week.  This has been an emotional day, and I think it’s important to let everything sink in and see how the next week goes.”

“But, Dr. Archer--,” Cori began. 

“You don’t need me, Cori.  You have your mother.  And I’ll see you both separately next week to discuss how you feel things are going.”  He spoke firmly and with confidence, expecting that both women would trust his professional opinion.

When they left, he followed them out and asked May to schedule both women for an appointment in the end of the next week.  Then he returned to his office and typed in some notes in each of their files.  And to encourage continued growth, he sent Dianne Huntley a brief email.

Dianne,

I saw some wonderful potential today.  I truly believe that this relationship will continue to grow with the effort that we saw today.  I’ll look forward to seeing you next week.

Take care,

Will

When Dianne had first approached him, he had been hesitant to take them on as patients.  He hadn’t seen her since he was in high school and had been dumped by her sister.  And while he knew there was no conflict of interest, he had a hard time with the blending of a former personal relationship and a present professional interest.  But everything had been working perfectly, and he was thrilled with
the progress of these two women.

He had left the door between his office and the lobby open and
he heard and immediately recognized her voice when she greeted May in the front office.  His heartbeat raced for a moment as he looked eagerly around his office, as though guiltily seeking out a notebook where he’d scrawled her name in hearts a dozen times.  He wasn’t in middle school anymore, he reminded himself for the second time in the past few days. 

“As long as he isn’t with patients, I can show myself in.” 

She appeared in his doorway before he was ready, and he gulped nervously at the site of her. 

He first noted that she wasn’t wearing her yoga pants and sports bra.  Pity.  But the blue jeans she wore were fitted and the flowing light fabric of her apricot top pressed against her breasts as she breezed into the room. 

“Good afternoon, Dr. Archer.”

“Ms. MaCall, what a surprise.”

She could hear the hint of a nervous tremor in his voice.  Good.  She had hoped to catch him off guard.  “A pleasant one, I hope,” she teased with a flirtatious smile.

“Of course.”  His smile was brief before he cleared his throat.  “Did your sister mention that I had called?”

“She did.  Unfortunately, as I had mentioned to you, I no longer work for MaCall Securities.  So I am afraid I have to decline the personal request for security detail.  Taryn will be happy to assign a currently employed security agent to you.  I can assure you that our security team is the best.”

He nodded, and she watched his eyes for a flicker of disappointment.
  Instead, they flamed briefly with embarrassment and indignation.  “I merely wanted your opinion.  Asking you to personally see to the detail was your sister’s recommendation,” he explained formally.

She turned to study the immaculate office space, admiring how the sunlight streamed through the side windows and didn’t illuminate even a speck of dust in the room.  She suspected he would look even more adorable if she could watch him work in his tidy shirt and tie in his tidy office.  She imagined him over her while she lay sprawled on the large desktop and smiled to herself. 

“It was an odd request, Dr. Archer.  Even when I did work for MSC, I never did security detail.”

“I apologize.  I was not aware of that.”

“But my sister is aware.”  She turned to give him her full attention and tilted her head to the side.  “So why would she be so interested in throwing the two of us together?”

He actually blushed.  Nervous
ness was perfectly adorable on him.

“I don’t know.”

“Taryn likes people to think that she’s tough, but she’s also a hopeless romantic.  Personally, I’d put money on her thinking that you have a crush on me.”

He stammered indignantly, which Jac would have thought impossible if she hadn’t seen it herself.  “Well…I…I…certainly not.  I simply felt that I could trust you to
at least make a recommendation.  You seemed…I don’t know…you seemed to know what you were doing when you were here.”

She shrugged coyly.  “I do know what I’m doing.  And I could definitely handle the situation.”  She pretended to study the abstract painting on his wall.  “
Assuming we are talking about security and not your crush on me.”

When he only gaped at her for a moment, she laughed. 

“I’m just teasing you.”  She pointed at the bold colors of the art piece.  “This surprises me.  I wouldn’t peg you as an abstract aficionado.”

“I liked the colors,” he answered, relieved to discuss something other than his attraction for her.  He knew that she was toying with him, but he wasn’t sure if she wanted him to make a move, or if she was only enjoying his discomfort.

She moved past him toward the doorway.  “I don’t mean to keep you, Dr. Archer.  I simply wanted to personally explain why I had to turn down your proposition.  I don’t want to make things hard between us.”

His eyes widened in surprise.  Had her gaze just flicked down below his waist?  No.

“Hard feelings, I mean,” she corrected with feigned innocence.

“Sure.  No.  No hard feelings.”  He was suddenly finding it hard to breathe.  Speaking had been difficult enough when she looked at him like that.  But now the lack of breath was sure to kill his last two brain cells.

“Well, I’ll be on my way.  If you ever need some aromatherapy or anything, you can usually find me in my shop.”

The preposterous suggestion loosened his tongue, and he laughed with relief.  “I don’t do aromatherapy,” he responded.

She grinned at the contempt in his declaration.  “Perhaps that is the problem.”

“I don’t have any problems, Ms. MaCall.  I’m a PhD.  I solve the problems of others.”

She was beginning to adore this man and his reminders of his PhD.  She grinned at him and took a step backwards toward the door, keeping her eyes on his.  “Yes, well…I’d love for you to be able to solve my problems, but since you are now falling in love with me, that would probably be considered a conflict of interest.”

She gave him a quick wink, turned and walked through the doorway, and was gone.

 

C
hapter 6

Jac
shook out her umbrella before moving into the lobby of Midwest Bank and moving toward the desk with her deposit pouch.  The teller was one she had seen many times, and the young blond woman greeted her by name.

“Ms. MaCall, how are you doing today?”

“Deposit Day is always a good day,” Jaclyn joked.  “It means the business will be open for another month.”

“Surely you have nothing to worry about, Ms. MaCall.  Business is booming.”

She turned to see the attractive blond man who had interrupted the small talk.  His smile seemed too big and too white.  Under his shirt and tie, she could tell that he had an extremely muscular physique.  Too muscular.  Hank-the-Tank, she thought to herself and fought to stifle an amused chuckle.  He moved to stand beside the teller as she processed the deposit.

Jac smiled in response.  “I would hardly call it a booming business.”

“MaCall Securities is one of the biggest businesses in town,” he argued good-naturedly.  “I have heard that as Vice President, you have done a phenomenal job of not only keeping the business going, but of implementing even more modern technology in your systems for home and professional security.  The community speaks very highly of you.”  He grinned at her, knowing that his charm typically worked well on all women, even very attractive women who left their family’s ultra-successful business to open their own rinky dink shops downtown.

Jaclyn relaxed,
relieved to realize that he was being genuine and was not simply trying to come on to her.  “That’s my sister, Taryn.  I run a small shop downtown called Triskele.”  She reached her hand across the desk, “I’m Jaclyn MaCall.”

He dwarfed her hand when he shook it
.  “My apologies for the confusion.  I guess that’s what I get for butting into a conversation.”  He was comfortable with playing the role of the dumb jock bank manager.  In his own experience, he got a thrill from the satisfaction of surprising the ass holes that had underestimated him.  And people were less defensive and more open to suggestion when he played the oaf.

“It’s fine,” she laughed.

“I’m Adam Holt, bank manager.”

“Adam the bank manager,” she repeated, remembering her conversation with Aislin only a couple of days before.  When he looked confused at her tone, she confided, “Aislin Kearney might have mentioned you to me briefly in passing.”

He laughed again and nodded.  “She’s pretty great.”  He wondered how much she had shared. 

“She is,” she agreed.

He walked her to the entrance and held the door open while she opened her umbrella and stepped under its protection.  He hadn’t seemed as wonderful as Aislin had described.  He had seemed a bit smarmy and insincere.  But then Joe MaCall had always accused Jaclyn of being too critical of men and too selective.

As she stood at the corner waiting for the light to change, she admired the shape of a jogger across the way.  He was drenched with his dark hair curling in the
morning rain.  He had also removed his shirt and his muscular chest and biceps glistened with raindrops.  He began running toward her, snapping her back to attention so that she recognized that the light had changed and she was able to safely cross the road. 

And when he smiled as he approached, she was shocked to realize he was Dr. Archer.  Without his glasses and with the rain-darkened hair, she hadn’t recognized him.  And while she had always found him to be adorable, there was nothing adorable about his hard wet body as he ran toward her. 

Stunned, she had stopped in the middle of the road, and he grinned as he jogged in place in front of her umbrella.  He appeared to be laughing at her surprise, and she realized that the tables had been turned.

“Dr. Archer,
” she greeted.  “Out for a run?”

“I needed to get out and stretch my legs.”

They were great legs.  Strong, lean legs.

“In the rain,” she laughed, becoming more comfortable as her surprise wore off.

“I love doing it in the rain.”

Yes, he was definitely turning the tables.  And yet, even as he was able to get the words out of his mouth, his hair was dripping on his slightly blushing cheeks.  She had to laugh in response.

“I’m glad I ran into you,” he said. 

He took her by the elbow and guided her out of the cross walk and up onto the curb.  It was a sweet gesture, and it made him that much more attractive to her. 

“I’m on my way from the pawn shop to your place.”

She narrowed her eyes at him.  “Unusual destinations for you, Dr. Archer.”

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