Chapter Three

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He sat alone at the bar, nervously crimping the edge of a cocktail napkin. He resisted the urge to check his watch again. Time had ceased to move from the moment he entered the upscale establishment. Though he offered to pick her up, she insisted on meeting him. It had taken some real negotiating on his part but she finally conceded to dinner. Weeks of dropping hints and increasing phone traffic had now paid off. She'd now be joining him for something other than business. He lifted a glass of Glenlivet to his lips with a smile, keeping an eye on the door.

George stood at the end of the bar, hanging a collection of Bordeaux glasses from a chrome wine rack. He glanced at Jay with a knowing look and a wink. Jay smiled back with a nod. Everyone knew it was his date destination of choice. It never failed to impress. It was chic. Expensive. And immensely private. He observed a host of power players and a couple of celebs reflected in the mirror behind the bar. A who's who of the city by the bay, drinking and dining at dark, intimate tables. And though he was a regular, at least by George's standards, he never truly considered himself a part of the group that dined behind him. Ten more minutes passed before she arrived. Their eyes met and they shared a smile as he slipped off his barstool and crossed the room toward her.

"Good evening." He nodded.

"Mr. Avery." She smiled.

"If you're ready..." The hostess signaled toward the dining room.

"Would you like a drink from the bar first? A glass of wine? Or champagne maybe?" He asked.

"No thank you. I'm on call, so I better pass."

They followed the hostess to a small, round table near the back. He pulled out her chair then took his place across from her. Within seconds a waiter appeared, eager to take their drink order. He listened to their requests with an attentive nod then disappeared, leaving them alone for the first time.

"I must apologize for being late. I had a last minute emergency at the hospital."

"Please," He held up a hand in protest. "You do not have to apologize. Not for saving lives. That's one excuse you'll never hear me question."

"Thank you. Not everyone is that understanding."

"Really?"

"It's a very demanding job. There's truly no such thing as clocking in and out."

"I never really thought about it that way but I guess you're right."

"Even when I'm not at the hospital, I'm still thinking about it."

"Hard to turn it off when you leave?"

"Yes." She nodded, offering the waiter a smile as he placed a glass in front of her.

"That's why you're the best."

"Well," She laughed. "I wouldn't say I'm the best. Far from it. But certainly one of the most obsessed.

His dream ended suddenly as his sleepy hand groped around the bedside table. He tried fervently to silence the annoying alarm. But it wasn't until he'd pressed every button and flipped every switch that he realized the sound was not from his alarm. A loud noise had pulled him from the first night of true rest he'd enjoyed in months. Inside their darkened bedroom, he strained his ears to determine its source. Half a minute passed before he heard it again—an urgent pounding of a fist against the door. He opened his eyes, squinting to read the numbers on the clock. It was just after four. He sat up in bed, slightly dazed and somewhat hung-over from his last cup of holiday cheer. The intensity of the pounding increased, forcing him from their bed. He slipped his arms through the sleeves of his robe, silently cursing her with each and every step. She's locked her keys in the car. Again! He marched down the hallway, shaking his head in disbelief. She can stand in the OR for hours, operating on tissue smaller than a human hair. Yet, she can't remember to take her goddamn keys out of the ignition. This is twice in the last month! Around the corner and past the still-lit tree, he cinched the terry cloth belt around his waist with heated deliberation.

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