My Starry-Eyed Secret Santa Preview
The minute I walked into the hospital conference room, I froze.
Michael sat at the long table, flipping through his phone. I flicked a look at my watch. I wanted to arrive and get settled before he did. How had ten minutes early not been enough? He was never on time, especially when it meant time away from his patients.
If I had a dollar for every time he rushed home twenty minutes late because of some last-minute work task, I wouldn’t have blinked at turning down my inheritance. He flew in every time with the same excuse.
“Sorry, I wanted to cross one more thing off my list before I came home.”
One more thing was always more important than showing up for whatever he had planned with me.
I bit my lip and started for the empty chair next to him, but the moment of hesitation cost me. A petite blonde with ruby lipstick I might have otherwise admired plopped down next to him.
“It’s so sweet of you to help with the fundraiser, Dr. Samson. I know you must be so busy,” she crooned, then patted his arm.
My still-husband looked at me instead of her. “My wife signed us up after last year’s event. She’s very active with the hospital’s charities.”
The woman turned around, clocking me and blushing. “Oh, I didn’t know. I’d heard—” She cut herself off and started to get up.
I waved for her to stay put and walked to the opposite side of the table.
“I’m Willa Samson, and you are…”
She jumped up and leaned across the table. “Amber Molina. I’m an intern in the PR department.”
I smiled, doing my best to remain unbothered. I was as used to women at the hospital making eyes at Michael as I was to his being late. At least it didn’t matter now. She probably “heard” Dr. Samson was getting divorced. Soon enough, who was hitting on him wouldn’t be my business. Of course, soon enough wasn’t today.
“Nice to meet you. An intern. How exciting.”
Did I sound condescending enough? I hoped so.
“I’m almost finished with my two-year internship and have a job offer after graduation in the spring.” She thrust her chin forward.
I almost shot back with a dig but stopped. Was I really getting into it with a college kid because she batted her lashes at Michael? No. And judging by the look on his face, he was enjoying my little display of jealousy too much already.
Michael stood. “I need coffee. Do you want anything, Wils?”
The easy familiarity of his nickname prompted a pang of loss in my chest. No one else called me that, and when he was gone, no one else would. I didn’t even love the nickname. Willa wasn’t so elaborate a name it required shortening, but it was mine. His. Ours. The room felt too hot.
“No, I’ll get it. I prefer tea.”
I hurried out before I got weepy in front of fucking Amber. Why hadn’t I dropped off the fundraising committee? My tie to the hospital was Michael, and we were in the middle of severing that tie. I rolled my fist in my other palm and swung open the door to the women’s restroom with an elbow.
The meeting hadn’t even started, and I was already a mess.
I hid in a stall with my embarrassment for a few minutes before straightening my shoulders and venturing out. Michael leaned against the wall in the hallway, waiting with a paper cup. He extended it as I passed.
“The hospital has nothing fancy, but the green tea is decent.”
I took the cup. “I doubt that, but thank you.”
He pushed himself off the wall and walked closer. My nostrils tangled with the sharp smell of surgical soap that clung to him when he was working—like cheap hand soap and rubbing alcohol.
“This is awkward. But can we sit together?”
“Why? The rumor mill has blown news of our separation down to the PR intern level.”
“God himself has no control over a hospital rumor mill,” he murmured in a low tone as someone else passed in the hall.
“Either that or he has better things to do at a hospital,” I joked.
“One would hope.”
The faint stubble on his cheeks rippled as he smiled. He hadn’t shaved, and one curl on his head wandered away from the fold. I loved his slightly unkempt look. It made me want to brush my lips over his jaw, smooth his hair, and take care of him.
Our eyes met. I tore my gaze away. His Adam’s apple bobbed with a hard swallow. A fan of chest hair peeked out of the shallow V of his scrubs.
I ignored the rising heat making my knees feel melty. Soon enough, his five o’clock shadow wouldn’t be mine to kiss anymore.