Maddie wasn’t sure she could take another step.
“Which grocery store shall we hit tonight?” her sister Kara asked.
“Huh?” It was all the response Maddie could muster as they finished the grueling eight-mile run along the beach. She bent at the waist and rested her elbows on her knees as she sucked in lungfuls of refreshing salt air.
“I’m thinking the Green Grocer over on
West Washington might be good.” Kara, who was in far better shape than Maddie, sounded less like a steam locomotive puffing up a mountain and more like someone who had just finished a game of Wii bowling.
Maddie had assumed, erroneously, that joining her sister on an after-work run would replace their usual evening activity of late—man hunting. Kara had read in a magazine that a good place to meet eligible bachelors was at the grocery store, so the sisters had been cruising a different one every night for the past three weeks. So far, they hadn’t met a single eligible man.
Using the railing to support herself, Kara stretched out her calves. “It’s right next to that new gym and lots of hungry, freshly showered men will be stopping by to pick up something quick and easy for dinner. I hear they have the best barbecue in town. That’s sure to attract my kind of guy.”
The last thing Maddie wanted tonight was go shopping for a potential life mate, especially the more-brawn-than-brains type that Kara favored. Maddie was more interested in an intellectual renaissance man. And no doubt they were all already home preparing a gourmet meal whilesipping a glass of chardonnay and listening to some cool jazz music.
“Kara,” Maddie said as her breathing slowed, “you realize it’s already seven p.m. By the time we shower and drive across town, most guys will be licking barbecue sauce from their fingers and settling back in their La-Z-Boys for the March Madness tip-off.
“We won’t know until we try.” Kara set off at slow trot up the feeder street that led to the main drag. Their apartment was three blocks east. “Besides, I hear they have the best sushi in town.”
Maddie, a sucker for sushi, fell into step next to her sister. Tomorrow night she would absolutely stay in and curl up with a good book.
“Check out that hot man in that hot car,” Kara said as they waited to cross
Maddie turned her head toward a sleek black Mercedes convertible purring through the intersection. The next thing she knew, she was lying on the cold, hard pavement, blinking against the glaring light of a street lamp.
A deep, smooth-as-honey voice was calling her name, bit it sounded as if she had cotton stuck in her ears.
“Maddie, are you okay? Say something.”
“What? What happened?”
A face slowly came into focus only inches from hers—so close she could smell his spicy cologne and feel his breath whisper across her cheek when he spoke.
“I think she’s coming around. Everyone stand back and give her some room.”
As the sound of sirens wailed in the distance, Maddie tried to sit up, but her muscles weren’t cooperating. She relaxed back against something soft that had been tucked behind her head.
She watched in confusion as the man shrugged his shoulders out of his charcoal gray suit coat and wrapped it around her body. Its silky lining still carried his body heat, a welcome warmth to her clammy skin.
“Kara? Where’s Kara?” Maddie managed, with great effort, to ask.
Kara’s’ concerned face popped into view.
“What happened?” Maddie whispered through suddenly dry lips.
“You were so busy gawking at that car, you didn’t watch where you were going and ran right into the light post, bounced off, stumbled backwards and clunked your head on an iron bench on your way down,” Kara answered. “Knocked yourself clean out.”
Kara smiled then leaned down and whispered in Maddie’s ear, “Don’t know how you did it, little sis, but you managed to fall at the feet of the most delicious-looking man. And he’s single! I already asked!”
Kara squeezed Maddie’s hand before slipping out of her range of focus.
The man reappeared—and Maddie concurred he was delicious-looking—and started to gently probe Maddie’s neck and base of her scalp. His touch was gentle, sending fissions of pleasure dancing along every nerve and his hands worked their way along her hairline.
Pain stabbed behind her eyes and she pulled away when he touched the spot just above her right temple.
“It’s good the swelling is on the outside,” the man said. “Hopefully not too much on the inside. I still want to run you over to Beach General for some X-rays.”
“Are you a doctor or something?” Kara asked.
Maddie studied the man’s face as his smile spread across his face, reaching all the way to his dancing green eyes. “Not board certified,” he said, “but I play one on TV. Dr. Drew Warrington, at your service.”
Drew Warrington! Of course! Maddie thought the face looked familiar. She’d been watching The Sands of Time since she middle school, and still did, mostly to see Dr. Drew. But before she could express her admiration, the EMT’s pushed Dr. Drew out of the way. The last thing she saw of him was the back of his head as he walked down the street.
* * *
When Maddie awoke from a nap the next morning the first thing she saw was a huge teddy bear with a big red bow dancing at the end of her bed.
“Feeling any better?” the teddy bear asked in a falsetto voice.
A face popped from behind the bear and Maddie grinned at Todd Williamson, better known as Dr. Drew Warrington to millions of soap opera fans across the country. Maddie thought him even better looking in person that he was on TV.
“Little headache,” Maddie said. “I should be released after the doctor makes his rounds, though.”
“Then I’ll let you rest,” he said, placing the stuffed animal in the chair next to her. “I was hoping you might be free for dinner tonight. Maybe I could come to your house and cook you dinner? My specialty is Shrimp Scampi. And if you’re interested, I’ve discovered a new Chilean white wine that pairs nicely with it.”
“That sounds great,” Maddie said, thinking she’d need to rustle up a Jazz CD to play in the background to make the evening perfect.
“Your sister gave me your address last night, so I’ll be over around five.”
“Mmm,” Maddie mumbled. The way that Todd gazed down at her, his eyes full of concern, left Maddie at a loss for words.
Todd stood at Maddie’s bedside in silence for a few moments, then reached out and brushed his fingers lightly across the bandage over her temple. Then he leaned down and placed a feathery kiss by her ear. “Feel better soon,” he said, and then disappeared.
“I already do,” Maddie whispered to his retreating back. Todd may not be a medical doctor, she thought, but he sure had the right prescription for what ailed her.