Delilah shook her leg restlessly, causing tremors of movement on the paper beneath her with a screechy sound effect to match. She bit her lip nervously and reconsidered whether telling Amelia she’d be fine by herself had been such a good idea. But she had a cold, that’s it. She didn’t need Amelia there to hold her hand when Stephen prescribed more orange juice and bed-rest.
But in the ten minutes she’d been in the sterile exam room, staring at the loudly ticking clock and the stark white walls, worst-case scenarios were playing hide and go seek in the recesses of her mind. Every time she thought she’d uncovered all the reasons she should be scared and began to calm down she happened across another one and it sent her reeling again. What if she had tuberculosis or consumption? Been bitten by something and contracted West Nile virus or the Avian flu? Hadn’t she seen an episode of some medical drama where a perpetual cold meant cerebral fluid was leaking from the brain?!
And then there was that weird hallucination where she had pictured herself with that strangely familiar woman, standing on some kind of lush hillside. For a moment she could have sworn she smelt crisp grass and fresh morning dew and even an impending rainstorm in the air. Which was crazy on so many levels, not least of which was that she hadn’t been able to smell anything for the last three months thanks to this damn cold.
Should she even mention her ‘vision problems’ to Stephen? She wasn’t delirious due to fever – she’d made sure Amelia checked – so what did that leave? Crazy, insane, delusional, what? She could picture Stephen now with that same infuriatingly patronizing way his sister got sometimes. He’d listen to her story, say he was going to help her and then get her committed to the mental hospital for sure. He’d probably even help them throw away the key. She’d be better off confiding in Jack the Ripper than him. Not that Stephen was a bad guy; he was just hyper-rational. Evidently doctors had to be.
The door opened and she stopped shaking, as still as a stone. For a moment she thought she was hallucinating again – maybe delusions really had taken over her life and she was trapped in some perpetual dream sequence. Next thing you know she’d be liable to break out into show tunes and the medical staff would start doing a conga line across her exam room. Because the person that entered was not Stephen the doctor or Amelia her friend or even Nancy the nurse; the only way he could be described was Man of Her Dreams.
“Hi, I’m Doctor Michaels. And you’re Delilah, right?” He turned and gave her an affectionate smile, his mouth curving up into a deliciously provocative curl, and reached his hand out in greeting. For a moment she didn’t move, too stunned and speechless to react at all. When time finally did start again, her manners catching up with the pounding of her heart, she still could manage little more than a head nod and an apprehensive smile.
“You’re not Stephen,” she said, glancing nervously at the door like she was sixteen again and he was going to bust in and embarrass her in front of a cute boy.
“No, I’m not,” he smiled, leaning nonchalantly against the counter, ankles crossed, her chart open in his hands.
“Sorry,” she blushed with a self-deprecating roll of the eyes, “It’s just Stephen is an old friend and he was squeezing me in so I’m just a little surprised that it’s you doing the squeezing and not him.”
He smiled a little bit wider and his eyes crinkled just a bit. “We all try to chip in around here. And I’m a sucker for a damsel in distress.” He paused for a moment and a look passed between them though what is was supposed to mean, only the color expanding across her cheeks knew. “Well now, what seems to be the problem?”
“I just,” she waved her hand dismissively, an attitude so engrained by now she still couldn’t seem to make herself take her illness seriously whenever an audience was around, “have this little cold I think. But it’s been around for three months now and I just can’t shake it.”
“Hmm, three months. That is a long time,” he murmured, stepping closer to examine her. His hands came down on the side of her neck, his finger probing gently along her jaw line and that sensitive spot under her ears. She knew it was for some purely medical reason, probably checking for some grossly horrifying symptom of something deadly serious, but it took all of her strength to not start purring at the feel of his hands on her. It had been so long since anyone had touched her that she had to curl her hands tightly against the edge of the examination table to not reach for him or lean into his purely clinical embrace.
She peeked her eyes up at him and his face was deceptively close, his dark emerald eyes peering down into her own. She tried not to look too content but it must not have worked very well because he flashed his own smile, a quick slash of his straight white teeth, before dropping his hands away. “No swelling,” he murmured with a slight hitch in his voice. She bit her lip to try and stop a satisfied smile from breaking out across her face.
Never before had Delilah wished that her throat and back were sexy but now she did as the dreamy doctor peered down her throat and rolled up her shirt. “Oh, cold,” she yelped in surprise with a little laugh as he touched the stethoscope to her skin.
“Sorry,” he replied, pulling it back. Delilah turned to look over her shoulder and saw him raise it to his mouth and blow slowly, letting the warmth of his voice wash over it. “Is that better?” he asked as he touched it to her skin again, no longer that stinging cold.
“Mmhmm,” she answered, shaking her head. She couldn’t speak. She didn’t know what was coming over her but suddenly the moment just seemed provocatively sensual. She’d felt especially raw since she’d stepped into that store, feeling like she could feel and hear everything more than she did before. The colors on the sidewalk, the sounds in the silent exam room, and now the brush of his fingers against her skin.
“Good, now take a deep breath.” His voice grazed across her skin and she felt her temperature go up a few degrees. “Now out.” She felt like she was going to hyperventilate, forcing herself to close her eyes and concentrate on the feel of the air against her lips, small round bubbles moving against the current of her tongue.
He stepped back, away from her, and it all stopped. Delilah brought a hand up and ran it distractedly through her hair. He walked back around to the counter, leaning against it unconcerned, and started to talk to her but she didn’t hear any of it; she was too distracted by the images racing around in her head. Her walking across the room to take her chart out of his hand and throw it across the room. Running her hands through his wavy chocolate hair. Ripping open his lab coat, buttons popping here and there, to find him bare-chested and beckoning her to touch him.
She closed her eyes and shook her head to clear it away before opening them to find the good doctor staring at her quizzically. “Sorry,” she blushed again, even more color rising to her cheeks, “I’m just a little distracted. You were saying?”
“Well,” he started, moving across the room to stand closer to her, hoping that would hold her attention, “I was saying that I don’t think it’s a bacterial infection but I’ll do some tests if you like just to be sure. The strain this year has a little bit of Epstein Bar in it so it’s been hanging around a little longer than usual. I’m not sure it’s anything to worry about.”
“Just one thing,” she murmured in a low sultry voice, prompting him to step a bit closer to hear her.
“And what’s that?”
“If I don’t need any more tests then when do I get to see you again?” she asked, holding tighter to the table to stop the urge she had to slip his pen out of his coat pocket and scribble her phone number across some obscured part of his body that she’d have fun uncovering.
His eyes widened just a bit and he stepped back, seeing the need to clear his throat as he did. “You know doctors can’t date their patients.”
“I had heard that somewhere,” she responded with a smile. Their eyes met and she wasn’t quite sure why but she laughed a little.
“You know, on second thought I really think that Stephen should have a look at you. He was the doctor you wanted, wasn’t he?”
“Oh yes, I definitely want to see Stephen.”
“Okay, well, it was very nice to meet you. And if you ever feel like a change – of the medical kind,” he clarified needlessly with a highly charged look, pulling something from his back pocket and scrawling a number across the back, “here’s my card. Call me, anytime.” He flashed her a mega-watt smile and dropped his card into her outstretched hand. Their fingertips grazed each other and she felt electricity blow through her. From the look on his face as he exited the room, he had felt it to.
“Wow,” she exhaled shakily, sneaking a peek at the door like she could see through it and follow him around the building to his next patient. “Jensen Michaels,” she read aloud. “Dreamboat MD.”
She was only waiting a few more minutes before there was a knock on the door and Stephen’s head peaked inside. “Hey De – sorry to keep you waiting.” He looked at her for a moment with that clinical doctor detachment before he blew the image by laughing in that disbelieving way he had that stretched his mouth wide like a monkey. “Seriously, can’t you manage to keep the flirting to a minimum ever?”
“I don’t flirt with you,” she replied.
“Ew, stop being disgusting,” he said, opening her chart and starting to read. He looked up just in time to see her stick her tongue out at him. “Oh, very ladylike De-lirium.” She had forgotten he used to call her that. She didn’t used to have hallucinations, did she?
“Okay, even though he’s too easily swayed by a pretty young thing, looks like Jensen examined you fine. Common cold. Here,” he said, tearing a piece of paper off of his prescription pad and writing something down, “I can’t give you anything for it but some of our other patients have been swearing by these herbs that are helping with the symptoms.”
“Why didn’t Dr. Michaels mention these to me?” Delilah sniffled, staring down at the barely legible writing with a critical eye.
“Because Jensen thinks that holistic medicine is for quacks while I on the other hand am horribly enlightened.” He looked at her confused face and sighed, stepping a bit closer to her. “Seriously De, I wouldn’t be telling you about them if they didn’t work. Just try them out, they won’t kill you.”
He opened the door and she followed him, winding their way through the back towards the lobby. “Stephen what does this even say?” she asked, turning the square this way and that to try and make some kind of meaning appear between the lines of his horrible handwriting.
“It’s a mixture of Chinese herbs called Shen Ti Hao. You drink them in a tea. Evidently it tastes really good with honey and a splash of milk.”
“Thank you Ste. I really appreciate you getting me in here today,” Delilah said, having to grab his arm to deliver her thank you since he was already off to another patient.
The smile he returned was sincere. “No worries little one. I’ve got you covered. Don’t break too many hearts now and I need my partner so don’t wear him out.”
“Can’t make any promises,” she answered with a devilish smile. Stephen just shook his head and ushered her out into the lobby, waving his hand at his sister in a quick greeting.
“Stephen, wait, you didn’t tell me where I can get these?” Delilah remembered, sticking her head back through the door. He had already disappeared.
He popped up a moment later behind the reception desk, leaning forward so they could see him. “There’s this one place downtown. Has a funny sounding name. What was it, what was it . . . something with the word Alternative in the title. It’s right next to that organic ice cream shop and that old bookstore with the picture of Sigmund Freud out front.”
“I know where that is,” Amelia piped up, “Remember, that cute little orange shop with all the blown glass? In fact, that’s where we were earlier when you got sick suddenly. What a coincidence.”