Two more appointments then I can hand the cases over to my colleague and grab a much-needed alcoholic drink away from this place.
My eyes gather the necessary information from the chart as I walk into exam room two.
“Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Kade, what brings Brownie in today?” I smile and my eyes peer up from the chart expecting to see the couple I’ve known my whole life.
Instead, I almost gasp from a surge of electricity immediately shooting through me.
“Lu-cas?” There is definitely confusion in my voice as I slur out his name. My confusion is logical in this situation.
“Abby?” He is equally puzzled as he leans against the table, holding the small brown poodle in place.
In front of me I see the man I remember as my teenage dream. He is still medium height with sandy brown hair, matching eyes, and he seems to have filled out nicely. The button-down baby-blue shirt, jeans, and clean shave complement that grin that has undoubtedly melted many hearts. Throw in the doctor title that I’m sure he is proud of and this man is certifiable dreamy.
Lucas standing in front of me is most certainly a surprise that gives me an extra dose of adrenaline. Screw any drink that I may have thought I needed as I am now 100% awake.
Words. I need words. Must speak words.
Clearing my throat, I say, “I was expecting to see your parents.” I pet the dog, yet my eyes remain on the human.
The human who I may have made out with once. I guess it doesn’t really count if I was a hormonal teenager who had no skill, right?
“I was expecting to see Dr. Murphy,” he comments and rubs a hand across his jaw.
“That would be difficult as he retired…yeah, we are that old now,” I answer and begin to examine the dog.
I took over the practice a year ago, and my head has been busy in modernizing the place while winning over the furred and feathered creatures of Sage Creek, Colorado. The town I grew up in and the place where snowy winters meet green and sunny summers. Nearby forests mean I’ve had my share of bizarre calls where someone’s dog grabbed a squirrel on a hike, and they feel the need to save the mauled rodent. It’s an idyllic place with great restaurants and little boutiques that women seem to adore. Tourists frequent our little town, which is understandable as it is so picturesque, all the way down to the occasional deer that walks across Main Street to eat the flowers outside the bakery.
The town where Lucas and I seem to find ourselves yet again after both having left for various reasons.
Lucas lets his hand glide through his hair. “I had no idea you were a vet now. How are you? It’s been what, ten years since we last ran into each other?”
And 15 years since he rocked my teenage world with a kiss.
“Yeah, I think so. What exactly happened to Brownie?” I listen to the dog’s heart with my stethoscope.
“Oh yeah, that. So, I’m babysitting the dog as my folks are at their house down in Arizona. I guess he swallowed something and now he seems quite sick,” he explains.
I’m trying to focus on the dog, but I feel like Lucas’s eyes haven’t left me and I’m certain he couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the dog either.
I feel the stomach of the dog. “Any idea what he may have eaten?”
“I think maybe one of Theo’s toys.”
I look at him baffled.
“Theo, my son,” he reminds me.
I’d heard he had a son but wasn’t sure of his name.
“Oh, so you’re visiting your parents with your wife?” I may have heard the gossip from my parents, but I need the confirmation.
He bites his bottom lip and his face scrunches up as his hands find his pockets. “Actually, uh, no wife. I’m about to finalize our divorce and moved back here a month ago.”
Yep, the divorce is the confirmation that I wanted to hear. And suddenly, I might be relieved that I just returned from a week in Cabo with a sun-kissed tan to show off.
“Ah, I see. Well, welcome back. And divorce is no fun. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt,” I admit.
My divorce from Scott was finalized a year ago, and while it wasn’t horrible as far as divorces can go, I wish it hadn’t had to happen. As in, I should not have married my ex to begin with. It’s another reason I’ve kept myself busy the last year…a distraction from the fact that I experienced the death of a marriage.
“Got it. That is how you ended up back here? I thought you were living on the east coast and writing?” Lucas seems equally intrigued.
“It has been awhile since we’ve seen each other. Switched tracks. You? I thought you were going to be a pilot, did that happen?” I give him a knowing look.
“No, actually. I am also a doctor now—but for humans. Switched tracks.” He grins with a click of his tongue.
Yep, we are both doctors but for two different species.
“Dr. Kade,” I say, and our eyes seem locked on each other.
“Dr. Call,” he tips his head slightly.
There is a moment and we both have a soft smile, but the sound of the whimpering dog brings me back to the task at hand.
“I am going to have the assistant do some X-rays. If it’s just a toy and in the right place to pass through, then I’ll give him something to help ease it out. Give me a minute.”
As I leave, I can’t help but look at the man who is watching my every move. I nearly run into the door, but I make a quick graceful save and leave the room.
I go to check on another patient while the assistant does the X-rays, and I wonder why there’s a flutter in my stomach.
Returning a few minutes later with the scans, I switch on the light box, sit on the chair, and place the scans over the lit panel on the wall.
“So, Lucas, it seems to be a figure with a sword? Or is that a hat? Is it a dog? I mean, like a figure or something,” I inform him as I tilt my head in various angles as I study the film.
“Could be the Paw Patrol toy. Kind of ironic.” He laughs to himself.
The corners of my mouth hitch up.
“Well, good news is it will pass, and bad news is you owe your parents a good bottle of scotch because they love this dog more than their first-born child,” I remind him as I take the X-ray and roll the chair I’m sitting on away.
He lets out a laugh. “Since I am the first born, any way we can keep this between us?” he pleads with a mischievous grin as he scratches the back of his head.
“Geez. You’re back 5 minutes and already asking me to do something unethical,” I tease.
His face tells me he likes my teasing. I don’t look away when the sound of the click of my pen fills the room and I sign off on the prescription. Handing Lucas the paper, our fingers graze slightly, and it sends a prickle through my body to parts I forgot I had.
We pause and get a little lost as we look at each other.
“Thanks. It was good to see you again. I feel like I should give you a hug or something.” He tries to lean in for a hug, but I jerk my hand up to stop him.
“Sorry. I am literally covered in fluids from a labradoodle,” I laugh.
He steps back. “Oh. Well. Maybe I will see you around?”
His eyes twinkle the way I remember. Those brown pools are the gaze of a man who knows he has a fan club of women somewhere, and I may be a secret member.
He picks up the dog to carry him out, and I can’t help noticing his flexed muscles. Lucas was always quite athletic when we were growing up. He would literally run to our house for exercise, then charm my mother by helping her mow the grass. All the while, I would gape at the sight in front of me and thank the fact that his parents volunteered him for helping with the yard. Now, he looks even more defined and muscular. He must work out, no man has the metabolism at his age to justify his body right now.
“Yeah. Maybe see you around,” I smile softly and lead them out.
I am very much hoping that I do, but I’m slightly nervous because I’m out of practice on how to deal with these butterflies that seem to be floating in me. It’s crazy, I’m acting like a throwback version of myself who had an epic crush. And that twinge in my gut reminds me that I am not the exciting one that the opposite sex goes for. When I was a teenager, I was awkward and borderline wild. Then when I hit college and dove into my studies, I settled into a more introverted bookworm life. I have no illusions, the word vixen and me will never appear in the same sentence. No, I’m the respectable vet who wears cute sweaters and jeans. Even if I did want to rebrand myself, I don’t think I would know where to begin.
Plus, I’m the last person that Lucas would look at as more than a friend, whether I rebrand or not.