Walt Newcome is a nurse still trying to put his personal life back together again after yet another failed relationship. At his wit's end with all men in general, he isn’t sure if he should give up entirely or just stop trying.
When Tag is injured in a warehouse fire and Walt is the nurse charged with his care, the question isn’t whether or not Walt will help him on his road to recovery. The question is who will end up healing who as the two become much closer than mere patient and nurse.
Walt opened the door to the bathroom and turned on the light. “Easy. Just like you did when you were a little boy and your mother was teaching you how to use the big boy potty.”
Walt laughed. “Just sit down on the toilet. Point, and aim. Easy peasy.”
“Oh.” Tag joined him in laughing at himself. “Sorry. It’s been a long time since then.”
Walt helped settle him on the seat and hung the IV bag on the wall hook next to the toilet. It was then when he started to walk out of the bathroom that Tag stopped him by tugging on his hand.
“Are you okay?”
“I just wanted to say thank you.”
Walt offered him a sincere smile. Even with the remnants of soot which still outlined his face and his mussed up hair, the fireman was not only charming, but incredibly polite. Whoever managed to hook him was one lucky man, or woman.
“You don’t have to thank me. I’m here to help.”
“I know, but…I like your help.”
Walt’s pulse began to race when Tag gently rubbed his thumb across the front of his hand. If he didn’t know any better, he would swear that the room temperature shot up a good twenty degrees in the past few seconds.
“I’m glad I can be here to help you,” Walt replied and quietly closed the door.
I’m glad I can be here to help you? What the hell was that? Nicely done, Walt. He sounded like a damn idiot. This was why he didn’t date much. He sucked at talking to people he was attracted to.
He stood on the other side of the bathroom door while he waited for Tag to finish. Walt used the time to collect his thoughts and get his head out of the clouds. The fireman was just being nice to him. That’s all there was to it. The gentle brush of his finger on his hands was nothing more than a patient thanking his nurse. Nothing more, nothing less.
The flush of the toilet woke him from his daydreams. “All finished?” he called to the other side of the door.
“Yeah, just give me a second.”
All finished. What was that? Stupid, asinine comment number two in as many minutes? Good Lord, Walt. If you keep this up, you’re liable to label yourself a complete and total nimrod in no time at all.
The distress in Tag’s voice worried Walt. Abruptly he opened the door to see what had happened.
Tag was leaning over the sink, holding on with so much force that his knuckles were white. His expression looked grim as he stared at his reflection.
“What’s wrong? Did you lose your balance? Are you okay?”
“Have you seen me? I am two shades away from looking like death. Even my five o’clock shadow looks grungy.”
Walt sighed. “Are you serious? You scared me. I thought…” He shook his head. “Never mind what I thought. Let’s get you back to bed.”
“No.” Tag looked at him in the looking glass. “Tell me. What did you think?”
“I thought you hurt yourself.”
“And that worried you?”
Walt felt himself being sucked in to his patient. This gorgeous fireman who was injured in the line of duty and, despite his haggard appearance, was the sexiest man he’d seen in a very long time. He had to stop his mind from getting carried away and put some professional distance between the two of them.
“You’re my patient. It’s my job to take care of you.”
“Oh. Yeah. I know that.”
The patient he tried to distance himself from suddenly seemed all too real. He could almost swear he saw disappointment in his eyes. Had it been his imagination? What was it about this man that made him off balance?
“So, are you ready to get back in bed?”
He wanted to kick himself for the way he worded the question. For some reason everything he said seemed to come out wrong, have a different context or a hidden meaning, too.
“Can you help me get a little cleaned up first? I feel like death warmed over.”
“Sure. Give me just a second.”
Walt went out to the cabinet adjacent to Tag’s bed and got two washcloths and a small, trial-size bottle of their all-in-one soap. He then went back into the bathroom and set the items down next to the sink.
“Here, let’s get you seated back down while I warm up the water.”
He put down the lid cover and helped Tag get settled on the seat before turning on the water. The steam rose after only a minute, and he turned on the cold to adjust it to the perfect temperature of hot, just not scalding.
Unfolding the washcloth and laying it in the sink, he did his best to ignore the hairs which stood up on the back of his neck. He was being watched. He could feel Tag’s eyes on him as sure as he could feel the warmth of the water. Then he squirted a liberal amount of soap into the wet washcloth and picked it up, squeezing the excess water and allowing the suds to work into every inch of the terry cloth.
When he turned to look at Tag he hadn’t been wrong. His chocolate-brown eyes were piercing him with an intent stare. What he wouldn’t give to know what the man was thinking.