“How’d you meet?”
“He’s Carter’s best friend, so I’ve known him forever. He’s also an architect specializing in restoration and his business is based out of Denver. He’s supervising my building remodel.”
“Mmm-hmm.” The doc blew across her coffee. “I suppose that’s why you’ve been gone so much?
Hooking up with him in Denver?”
“Partially. But the VA consultant fee is three times what you pay me. Can’t blame a girl for making a living.” She offered an impish smile.
“I don’t. I just hope you know what you’re doing.”
“With Jack or with the building?”
“Both. Now that you’ve begun the process of readying a space for a clinic, I’d hate to see you abandon your dream and move to the big city to be some hotshot architect’s wife.”
Keely scalded her tongue with coffee to keep from refuting the statement.
The doc asked, “Are Chet and Remy doing the remodel?”
“I wouldn’t trust it to anyone else.”
“Smart girl. Maybe I’ll swing by and check out the progress. I’ve been debating whether to remodel my kitchen.”
“You’re never home long enough to eat a meal, let alone cook one.”
Doc’s gaze fell to her coffee cup. “Maybe I’m seeking changes in my life too. I’m tired of all work and no play.”
“If you’re looking for a man to play with, I can hook you up with one of my cousins.”
Keely blinked at her. “How many do you need?”
Dr. Monroe’s sly smile gave her a younger, playful appearance. “Enough to keep me from getting bored.” She drained her coffee. “Let’s see what torturous schedule Brenda lined up for us today.”
Hours later, Keely kicked the foot exerciser beneath the bench in the PT room. She glanced at the clock and handed her last client of the day a towel. “I’ll see you next week, Gladys.”
“But I’m feeling better, Keely. I don’t need to—”
“Yes, you do. You had a hip replacement. My job is to make sure you’re doing your exercises and not spending all your time watching TV.”
Gladys looked petulant. “It’s not like I have anything better to do.”
Keely scooted forward on her rolling chair and took Gladys’s hands. “I understand you miss Paul. But letting your health deteriorate… He wouldn’t want that for you. I don’t want that for you. You shouldn’t want that for yourself.”
Her eyes clouded with tears. “What am I supposed to do?”
“I’m not advocating you start kickin’ up your heels at the Golden Boot, but you need to do a physical activity every day. The simple exercises I showed you are enough. Keep a log this week of what you’ve done, how you’ve felt afterward, and we’ll go over it next week, okay?”
“That’s fair. Thanks for not yelling at me.”
“Oh pooh. I’m not exactly a drill sergeant.”
“Which is why I keep coming back to you, sweetie.” Gladys rubbed her thumb across Keely’s engagement ring. “This is new. Pretty and shiny, like new love. What is your young man like?”
A pain in the ass.
Not a response poor Gladys would understand since she’d lost her husband of fifty years just last fall.
Gladys harrumphed. “Details, girlie. What does he look like?”
Keely rattled off, “Tall, dark and handsome doesn’t even begin to describe him. He’s gorgeous, outrageously sexy, with this killer smile and these intense green eyes that just seem to bore into my soul.”
She froze. Good Lord. Had she really regurgitated that out loud? She actually sounded like a lovesick fool.
Maybe you are.
“Men like that are always good between the sheets too.”
Lifting her gaze to Gladys’s, she said, “No comment.”
“Which tells me everything I need to know.” Gladys winked and pushed to her feet.
Keely followed Gladys into the waiting room. Her PT sessions were “open door policy” meaning family members could pop in and observe the session. Her eyes narrowed on the man lounging outside the therapy room. “Jack? What are you doin’ here?”
“I thought I’d surprise you. Take you out for dinner.” He pressed his mouth to hers while her jaw hung half-open in shock. His lips moved to her ear. “Do you really consider me outrageously sexy, cowgirl?”
“In your dreams,” she whispered back. Not that she wanted to revisit the explicit sexual dreams she’d been having damn near every night since Jack had moved in.
“Now isn’t that sweet,” Gladys said dreamily.
Sweet as snake oil.
“Since my intended doesn’t intend to introduce us, I’ll introduce myself.” Jack clasped both Gladys’s hands in his. “Jack Donohue.”
“Gladys Johansson. You can call me Gladys. Actually, you can call me anytime.”
“Need help out to your car?” Keely asked, trying to sidestep Jack.
“No, sweetie. You go on and get ready for your young man.”
Jack grinned. “I’d be happy to walk you out while Keely is gussying herself up for me, Miz Gladys.”
“I’d like that.” Gladys waggled her fingers at Keely. “Toodles until next week.”
When Jack sauntered back in, still smirking, Keely bit her tongue against lashing out at him for his presumptive behavior, not only with her, but also with her client.
“She is a sweetheart. Reminds me of a lady back home who used to serve me cookies and lemonade after I mowed her lawn. I always ended up staying and chatting with her for an hour or two.”
Okay. That showed her a different side of Jack. Which seemed ironic, since earlier she’d been reflecting on those different, unknown, sides of herself.
“I’m starved. Where can we eat around here besides Dewey’s?”
“I’m sure you’re used to finer dining establishments than what’s available in the Sundance-Moorcroft metro area.”
“Glad you think so highly of me,” he muttered.
“If the tasseled loafer fits…”
“Nice dig. Only took you thirty seconds. You’re slacking, buttercup.”
Keely shrugged. “I’m tired. My brain is sluggish. How about pizza?”
“There’s bar food at the Rusty Spur and the Golden Boot.”
Impatiently, he said, “Just ride with me and we’ll find someplace, okay?”
“I’ll save you time and gas. If you’re hungry there are two options. Dewey’s or the Twin Pines.”
“Let’s go there.”
“I can’t. I can’t step foot in the place, actually.”
“Umm. I’ve been banned from Twin Pines. For life. I think.”
Jack’s too-handsome face registered shock. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“What did you do to get banned for life?”
“I was in a bar fight.”
“You started a bar fight?”
“No, but I sure as hell didn’t back down from one when someone else did. Stuff got broken. Bottles, tables, noses.” She waved him off. “Old news.”
“Not to me, but disturbing news nonetheless.” Jack scowled. “Dewey’s it is.”
“I’ll meet you. I have to close up and file my paperwork.”
Keely considered changing her work clothes, but Jack would think she’d gussied herself up for him, so no dice. In Dewey’s, she spotted him in the far corner booth. He stood, waiting to reseat himself until after she’d sat. Okay. That gentlemanly courtesy was impressive. And sweet. And unexpected.
Nervous, because this felt like an actual date, she flipped through the menu even when she’d memorized it ages ago. “What are you having?”
“Chicken fried steak.”
“Sounds good. Been a while since I’ve had it.”
“Careful, we’re actually agreeing on something.”
“Maybe it’s a full moon.”
His answering bad boy grin had her heart doing the two-step.
After the waitress took their order, Jack stared at her with unabashed interest. “What?” she said testily.
“I don’t even know when your birthday is.”
“It’s not like you’ll be around to shower me with expensive presents.”
“We need to know some of that stuff about each other before the engagement party.”
True. Especially in light of suspicions all wasn’t right with said engagement. “May twenty-third. I’m twenty-seven. You?”
“April fourth. I’m thirty-four.”
“You’re an old timer, eh?”
A slight scowl. “I’d say experienced.”
“So, Mr. Experienced, what other secrets do we need to share?”
“Start with the basic first date stuff. What’s your favorite food?”
“Steak. Followed closely by bacon. Followed closely by chocolate.” She picked up a straw and rolled it between her fingers. “I’ll bet I can guess yours.”
“No, you won’t.”
“Yes, I will.”
There was that wicked grin again. “I dare you to try.”
Keely considered him. “This is way too easy, Jack.”
“So stun me with your insight, cowgirl.”
“Poached salmon. Wild rice pilaf. Brussel sprouts. Plain cheesecake.”
A stricken look crossed his face.
She smirked. “I totally nailed you didn’t I?”
Jack angled across the table. “Not. Even. Close. But I am intrigued by the thought of you nailing me.”