He's the Man Page 1

Author: M. Malone

Series: The Alexanders #3

Genres: Romance


THERE WAS NOTHING in the world Matt Simmons hated more than nagging. Which was unfortunate since his twin sister had lately turned nagging into a full-time occupation.

“No more doctors, Mara. I’m done.”

He stood in the kitchen of his sister’s town house and stared aimlessly out the window at the sparse patch of grass masquerading as a backyard. Not that he was particularly interested in the yard work waiting for him. It was just better than facing his sister when she was nagging him about something.

“This is important. This is your health.” Mara tugged on his arm until he turned around. “I’m worried about you.”

Her brown eyes were soft as she looked him over from head to toe. Despite his annoyance, he felt his resistance crumbling. His first conscious memory was of looking into Mara’s eyes, so they were pretty much impossible to ignore.

“Man, you’re good but you forgot to widen your eyes and look pitiful,” he joked. He tugged on the ends of her long, curly dark hair. “It also worked better when you were in pigtails.”

She slapped his hand away. “I’m serious. Your shoulder is still bothering you and it’s been months. Months, Matthew. It’s getting worse every day.”

“Ugh, don’t call me Matthew. You sound just like Mom.” He covered his ears with his hands playfully.

Mara stopped in her tracks. “Okay, that was just mean.”

He laughed until his sides hurt and eventually Mara joined in. Their mother was notoriously self-absorbed and critical. Usually any comparison to Carolina Simmons was enough to earn him either the silent treatment or a smack on the head.

“That probably was a little below the belt, but I have to work with what I’ve got over here. You’re trying to force me to let a bunch of sadists poke and prod me again. There has to be something besides surgery. No more needles, thanks.”

“I understand. I don’t want you to go back to the hospital.”

“Well, where do you want me to go then?” Matt asked.

“A physical therapist.” Mara smiled triumphantly. “There’s no needles involved.”

“That’s the same damn thing and you know it.”

“No, it’s really not. Plus, you know her. Remember our babysitter who used to live three streets over when we lived in Vienna?”

“What? The pudgy girl with the glasses? Are you kidding?”

Mara made a face at him. “Be nice. She’s a physical therapist in Northern Virginia now. Anyway, she promised to work you in on Wednesday. I’ve heard she’s some kind of miracle worker.” She turned and dug through her purse until she found her phone. “I know I put the time in my calendar.”

“You actually made an appointment?” Matt shouldn’t be surprised. Mara had a personality like a freight train. In her excitement to take you where she wanted you to go, she was just as likely to run you over.

Mara held up her hands. “What is the big deal? If it’s really just your shoulder, why won’t you go and deal with it?” She stopped suddenly, her hand suspended in midair. “It is just your shoulder, right?”

Matt pushed away from the counter and walked to the back door.

“Hey, where are you going?” she called.

He pushed his feet into the old pair of sneakers he always wore when he cut the grass. “To chop wood. You’re almost out.”

“You don’t have to do that. Trent can do it—”

“I can do it,” he snapped. “I might have a bum shoulder, but that doesn’t make me an invalid.” Then he slammed the door behind him.

He jogged down the back steps and across the grass to the small woodpile next to the storage shed. The crisp, cold air stung his nostrils with every breath. If he wanted a little peace and quiet, this was the only way he’d get it. Mara hated being cold, so as determined as she was, he doubted she’d come out to bug him while he was splitting logs.

He grabbed the small axe he’d left next to the woodpile. It shouldn’t be that hard since his injury was in his left shoulder and he was right-handed. It was mainly momentum anyway. If he aimed true, gravity would drop the axe with enough force to split the log. When he was ready to start, he took a deep breath and hoisted the axe over his right shoulder. It slipped and he instinctively reached up with his left hand to steady it. Pain lanced up his arm, radiating through his left shoulder and down his back.

“Aw, hell.” He bit his lip and turned away from the house in case Mara was watching. He moved his shoulder experimentally, almost losing his breath as the pain rolled through him on a wave of nausea. The axe fell to the ground behind him with a dull thud.

It was a minor miracle that he managed to stay upright. He tried to do the breathing exercises he’d learned in the hospital. Breathe. Just breathe. Then he thought to hell with it and bent at the knees. Breathing could only do so much.

“When Mara told me I needed to talk to you, I thought she was just being her usual overprotective self.”

Matt looked up to see his friend Trent Townsend standing a few feet away. Trent’s blond hair had grown out some since the summer and he looked more like the surfer dude he used to be.

Matt chuckled halfheartedly. If Mara couldn’t nag him herself, it didn’t mean she’d given up. She’d just gotten someone else to do it for her.

Especially now that she and Trent were together.

The thought of his best friend and his sister still gave him a strange pang in his chest. He’d known how they felt about each other for years and he’d even asked Trent to watch over Mara while he was deployed in Iraq last year. In his heart, he’d known what would happen and had even been hoping for it. Trent was a good guy, one of the best he’d ever known.