“I’m not sweet. I just speak the truth.” Angling his body toward her, he placed his beer on the table. “So your friend was telling me that you all are nurses.”
Nodding, she told herself to take it slow with the drink since she could taste the bite of liquor in it. “Yes. We work at an assisted living facility not too far from here—well, I used to. Today is my last day.”
“She was saying something like that,” he said. “That this was a little going away party.”
“Yep.” She sipped her drink. “I’m actually leaving town—the state tomorrow.”
“Really? Where are you heading to?” Interest flickered across his face.
She almost blurted out Louisiana, but stopped herself at the last moment. For one thing, she didn’t know Too Hot To Be Real Taylor. Beyond that though, the NDA she signed was hardcore. The only people who knew what city and state she was going to were her parents. Anna only knew it was Louisiana.
“I’m taking a job in the south,” she finally answered and then quickly changed the subject to him. “What about you? Do you live around here?”
Picking up his bottle, he shook his head. “I’m in town on business. Doing some research.”
“Research?” Was he in the medical field or a journalist? Possibly a writer of some sort?
He took a sip of his beer. “Have you always done assisted living care?”
“No. When I got out of college, I worked at a hospital and did emergency care,” she told him, glancing over her shoulder. She couldn’t see Anna anymore. “I worked in that for about two to three years.”
“Wow. That had to be intense.”
“It can be. I mean, you’ll have nights where you’re dealing with nothing but stomach complaints that sometimes turn out to be something serious, but usually is the flu or something bad that the person ate. Then there’d be nights where it can be pretty tough.”
His gaze roamed over her face in a way that was intensely consuming, leaving her a little breathless once his gaze connected with hers again. “So, why did you leave it?”
Swallowing hard, she lifted her glass and took another drink. Wasn’t like she could tell him it was because when she left her husband, she left the town they lived in and her job. Not like that had stopped Adam from trying to get in contact with her every couple of months like clockwork. That had only stopped when she finally changed her number and didn’t give it out to any of their mutual friends. Deep down, she’d known he would learn about her leaving and flip, because that was the way he was. Her stomach plummeted at the thought.
Damn, all of that was a mood killer.
She pushed all that aside. “I kind of wanted to do something different and be closer to my family.”
“Family’s a big thing for you?”
“It is. I’m an only child, so I was spoiled.” Her stomach dipped again when he laughed, but it was a way different feeling because his laugh was deep and nice. The sensation it caused was like being on a roller coaster right as you reached the peak of the ride and were about to zoom all the way back down. “Okay. I wasn’t really spoiled, but I’m close to my parents. They’re good people.”
“Then you’re lucky,” he said. “Not a lot of people get to say that.”
“What about you?”
“I’m not one of those people.”
“Oh.” She blinked. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
His head tilted to the side as he studied her intently for the moment. “You sound like you’re actually speaking the truth.”
“Maybe because I am?” she suggested.
“You feel sympathy for virtual strangers?”
“Of course. Everyone should.” She stepped to the side as someone walked past their table, causing the wristlet her phone was in to press into her hip. “At least that’s what I believe.”
“That’s good to hear, because—” Words left her as he reached across the distance with a free hand, catching the strand of hair that had slipped free from the bun and had fallen across her cheek. Her lips parted on a soft inhale as he tucked the strand behind her ear.
“Fixed it,” he said, as his hand dropped and his fingers lingered along the side of her neck. “Though I bet your hair is gorgeous down.”
Her cheeks felt warm. She had no idea how to respond, not when his fingers ghosted down the side of her neck, the touch like a whisper.
“Did you always want to be a nurse?” he asked.
A handful of moments passed before she could answer. “I . . . I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger, like my dad, but I couldn’t deal with having to put animals down.”
“Yeah, that’s a rough job. I couldn’t do it either.”
“Do you . . . do you have any pets?” she asked, feeling a bit foolish for asking. Was that as lame as asking what kind of sports team he liked? She really hoped the conversation didn’t go in that direction, because she so did not pay attention to sports.
“I don’t. Not home a lot. What about you?”
“Me neither, but I would like to one day. I’ve always had this dream of owning an animal rescue.” She laughed again, this time feeling a little self-conscious, because she had no idea why she was blathering on about this. “You know, when I win the lottery and have millions of dollars I don’t need.”
A grin teased at his lips. “So that’s what you’d spend millions on?”
“Yes. I mean, what else would I need the money for?” Though, she did have an obsession with designer purses she couldn’t afford, but he didn’t need to know that.
“What kind of animals would you rescue?”
“All kinds of animals.”
“If they needed rescuing, then yes,” she answered, grinning.
He shifted closer. “What about snakes?”
“Them too, and yes, even rodents. All life is precious.”
His brows lifted in surprise. “Okay, so you’re either a vegan, religious, or you practice aikido?”
Giggling, she shook her head as she looked away. “No, I heard that on an episode of The Walking Dead. Sorry. I like meat, not very religious, and I’m not that deep.”
Taylor laughed, and she had to fight back a sigh again. It was such a nice laugh. “Shit. Well, glad to hear all three of those things.”
Glancing around the bar, she still couldn’t find Anna in the ever-increasing throng of people. Where in the hell did she go?
“Do you like working in assisted living?” he asked, and when she looked at him, her gaze dipped to his mouth. She had a hard time not wondering what it would feel like against hers, against other places.
Her entire body flushed hot. God, she couldn’t remember the last time she felt such a visceral reaction to someone who hadn’t even really touched her. There had only ever been Adam, and while sex with him had been okay, just thinking about doing it hadn’t caused her pulse to beat as wildly as it was now.
“Ms. Hughes?” Taylor grinned.
Drawing in a deep breath, she decided she should probably stop drinking at this point, so she had a better chance of getting control of her hormones. “Yeah, I do.”
Boy, wasn’t he a bucket full of questions. She placed her drink on the table. “I kind of fell into it at first. When I moved back home, it was one of the immediate openings,” she admitted, running a finger along the bottom of the glass. “And it just clicked.”
“That kind of line of work has to be hard.” Turning toward the table, he placed his elbows on the surface and leaned in. “I mean, a lot of the patients are, I guess, nonresponsive? Is that the right word for it?”
“Some of them are, but there’s different levels.” She peeked over at him, and found that he was watching her the same way he had been since they started talking. It was intense. Made her feel like there wasn’t a single word she was speaking that he missed. His attention was simply undivided. “There are patients that need their basic functions assisted with and others who are there, but . . . but not completely.”