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“SERGEANT SEXY IS here.” Georgia leaned back against the door and
fanned herself with her hand.
Penny sat at her desk, peering into a small handheld mirror. Eyedrops
couldn’t conceal the effects of exhaustion completely, but it should be enough
to keep her from scaring her patients.
“I never knew you had such a fetish for military guys. Does James
know about this?”
“I don’t have a fetish. I just have appreciation. Where have
you been hiding this one? No wonder you never talk about your friends. You’re
keeping them all to yourself.”
Penny put the eyedrops back in her bag and stored it in the drawer of
her desk. “What are you talking about? I told you I haven’t seen either of the
Simmons twins in a decade, at least.”
“Oh. So you’ve never seen him as an adult?” Georgia touched the tip
of her tongue with her finger.
“Uh no. Why?”
“Nothing. I’ll let you see for yourself. It’ll be more fun that way.”
With a wiggle of her eyebrows, she was gone.
Penny shook her head hard to clear it of any lingering fog as she
walked down the hall from her office and into the waiting room. There was only
a smattering of people waiting: an older woman with a lapful of knitting, a
pregnant woman, and two older men chatting in the corner. She turned and called
out, “Sergeant Simmons?” No one looked up. She let out a breath and then turned
again, bumping into an incredibly wide and incredibly hard chest. “Oh, I’m
The man who stood behind her looked about six feet and had dark hair
and eyes. She would have known he was military even without the Army hat he was
wearing. He stood too straight, his eyes darting around the room as if on alert
for disturbances. That wasn’t what made her lose her breath, though.
Maybe it was the muscles stretching the fabric of his cotton tee
shirt. It was definitely the eyes, thickly lashed and the color of dark
chocolate. Whatever it was, she shivered when his gaze roamed over her lazily.
When he got back to her face, his eyes narrowed slightly. Penny shivered when
she met his gaze.
He was just so unapologetically masculine.
“Uh, hello. You must be Sergeant Simmons.” Penny automatically held
out her hand.
His lips twitched. “You used to scold me for jumping out of the tree
in the backyard and scaring my sister. It’s weird for you to call me Sergeant.
Please, call me Matt.”
Penny was surprised into laughing. “Of course. Matt.” Saying his name
brought a curious tingle to her belly.
He stepped forward and pulled her into a hug, and she shivered as his
arm made contact with her back. He hadn’t shaved and the slight stubble on his
face left a pleasant rasp of sensation against her cheek when she pulled back.
She swallowed and squared her shoulders, trying to get her
equilibrium back. “It’s been a long time. How have you been?”
A shadow crossed his face and Penny immediately wanted to kick
herself. He’s an injured Army veteran. How do you think he’s been? Real
“Let’s go back to my office so we can talk.” She waited until he fell
in step next to her. She’d never been quite so aware of her height before but
standing next to Matt, she didn’t feel tall and awkward at all. Her height put
her at the perfect level to look directly in his eyes. It felt comfortable.
They entered her office and she motioned for him to sit down. He
nodded his thanks and sat back.
“So, your sister mentioned on the phone that you’ve been having some
problems with your shoulder.”
Penny pulled out her glasses and perched them on the tip of her nose.
She flipped open his medical file, which Georgia had gotten faxed from his
doctor a few days ago. “I see you’re recovering from a dislocated shoulder and
you underwent a surgical repair to the glenoid labrum. This should have taken,
at most, three months to heal.”
“There were complications from the surgery.” Matt lifted his arm
about a foot higher than his thigh. Suddenly his face twisted. “This is about
as far as I can lift my arm without pain.”
Penny looked down at the file. “That wasn’t documented in the postoperative
notes I see here.”
“The problems didn’t show up until later.”
She closed the file. “So, you had more mobility after the surgery and
it declined over time.”
Matt looked down. “I did the exercises they gave me at the VA
hospital. It just seemed to get more painful. I think it was doing more harm
than good. So I just stopped.”
“Your physical therapist should have adjusted your treatment. It
looks like you only had a month of PT afterward.”
“I was told that’s all I needed.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, but I’m not convinced there’s much to be done.
I’m just here so my sister will stop bugging me about it. I don’t think doing a
few exercises is going to change much.”
“A few exercises? Is that what you think we do here?” Penny reminded
herself not to get angry. Plenty of people had misconceptions about physical
therapy. Not that it didn’t rankle to hear her profession dismissed as
something no more important than what people did in their living rooms with a
Matt smirked. “No offense or anything. I just need to face reality.
My shoulder probably needs more surgery.”
“Oh, and you received your
medical degree from what school? Because I’m pretty sure you’re not a doctor.”
The arrogant smile on his face showed he knew he’d gotten on her last
nerve. “Right. Look, I’m not trying to put down what you do here. I’m sure this
is great for little old ladies recovering from hip replacements, but I need to
get back into fighting shape. I can’t do my job if I can’t raise my arm above
He sat back in his chair, tipping it back until he was balanced on
two legs. Part of her hoped he fell. That would wipe the smug smile off his
face. Penny pushed his file aside and stood. He let the chair drop back to four
legs and stood, too.
“You know, I was completely surprised to hear you’d gone into the
Army. You were something of a brat as a kid. I see that hasn’t changed.”
He sighed. “You’re right. That was inexcusable. I got a phone call on
the way here that caught me off guard, but I have no right to take it out on
you. This whole situation is my fault.”
“You got injured in combat, correct?”
“Then it’s not your fault.”
He looked down at her and Penny felt her resolve weaken. It didn’t
help that he was impossibly good-looking. Maybe she was just as weak as
Georgia. Completely taken in by a handsome man with bedroom eyes. Except she
was well aware that a handsome face could easily disguise a hideous soul. Being
handsome didn’t mean that he was a good guy.
“I want to help you, but I can only do that if you’ll let me. I can’t
promise you a miracle, but no one else can either. All I can promise is that
you’ll leave here better off than when you came in. Most of my patients go on
to lead happy, productive lives. You’re young and you were in prime physical
condition before your injury. There’s no reason you can’t do the same.”
“Happy? Productive? Tell me this, Penny. These people you’ve helped,
could they hold a rifle steady? Could they jump out of a moving aircraft? If I
can’t requalify for my unit, then my life won’t be happy or productive.”
“I can’t tell you that you can do those things for sure, Matt. I’m
sorry. But I can promise you this. If you don’t let me help you, you definitely
won’t get there.”
“You want to help me?” Matt banged his fist on the desk between them.
“Then help me get my life back! Can you do that?”
Penny froze. He looked down at the overturned items on her desk.
“I think we’re done here.” Penny took a step back when he moved
closer. “Please leave or I’m calling security.”
After a tense moment when Penny wasn’t sure if he was going to leave,
he spoke. “I’m sorry. I’m so incredibly sorry. It seems like that’s all I feel
Then he left.
Penny stood perfectly still for a moment, then collapsed into her
desk chair. Her breath came in short pants until she finally felt her heartbeat
begin to settle.
“Well, all right then. Great seeing you again,