He's the Man Page 2

It was just that the thought of his baby sister loving someone—hell, one day soon marrying someone—made him feel old as hell.

And alone.

“I should have known she’d tell you.” Matt stood up, stretching carefully. The nausea seemed to have passed.

“I’m glad she did. You look like shit, amigo.”

Matt barked out a laugh. One of the best things about having true friends was knowing they would always tell you the truth. “I look a damn sight better than I feel, I’ve got to tell you.” He took a deep breath. Mara was right.

It was getting worse, not better.

“I’m not going to ask you what’s wrong. I’m sure Mara’s been doing enough of that. I just hope you know that you can ask me for anything. Anything at all.”

Matt nodded. “Yeah, I do know that. You’re a great friend. The best a guy could ask for.”

Trent cracked his knuckles. “Okay, so I’ve been sent to tell you the appointment is on Wednesday. Also, to remind you we’re having dinner at the Alexanders’ on Friday.”

“Not on Sunday?”

“They moved dinner to Friday because Nick and Raina will find out what they’re having that afternoon. Mara’s betting on a little girl. She says that would be karma getting Nick back.”

Matt grinned. Their good friend, Nick Alexander, had been a legendary player until hooking up with his wife. He was now totally and completely whipped. He was also totally and completely happy. It was a nice thing to see.

“Karma would be if they had twin girls that were just as gorgeous as Ridley and Raina. Then Nick could spend the next thirty years aiming a shotgun at their boyfriends.”

“Even karma wouldn’t be that cruel.” Without another word, Trent walked over to the fallen axe and picked it up. He split a few logs and gathered them in his arms.

“I’ll see you later,” Trent yelled over his shoulder as he walked away. Matt raised his chin in acknowledgment and then went back to trying not to throw up.

*   *   *   *   *

PENELOPE LEWIS RUSHED from treatment room 1 at the Northern Virginia Rehabilitation Center. Her day had started off at full throttle and hadn’t let up since. She glanced at the clock mounted on the wall of the center’s waiting room and groaned under her breath when she saw it was almost noon.

It wasn’t even lunchtime and she was already running behind.

She glanced over at her assistant, Georgia Thorne. “Were you able to reschedule my Wednesday afternoon appointments?”

Georgia had been working at the center longer than she had. She was a pretty, petite brunette who kept Penelope’s schedule running like clockwork and was pretty much her polar opposite. Despite the fact that she made Penny feel like a galumphing Amazon most days, they had somehow become good friends.

“Yes, I did.” Georgia smiled slyly. “Someone canceled that afternoon anyway, so I rearranged a few appointments to give you the entire afternoon. Who is this guy anyway? I’ve never known you to rearrange your schedule for anyone before. You never talk about your friends or anything other than work, actually.”

“Are you trying to say I have no life?” It was hard for Penny to work up any outrage. The truth was, she didn’t have much of a life outside work. Something that hadn’t really bothered her until recently.

“We’ve been working together for two years and you know everything about me. My failed attempt to be an actress, you listen to me blabbing about the latest thing my kids are up to, and I’m sure you’ve gotten an earful many times when James and I are fighting.”

Penny conceded the point with a nod. Georgia and her husband were the parents of three precocious little girls and with little time for romance, their marriage had definitely felt the blow. She had been more than happy to lend a sympathetic ear but hadn’t wanted to share any details of her own life. What could she say? She’d feel ridiculous talking about her relatively peaceful life while her friend was dealing with so much.

“There’s nothing to tell. I’m just… normal, I guess. I work. I sleep. Scott and I order Chinese and watch pay-per-view movies. Occasionally I manage to stay awake until the end. God, that sounds pathetic when I say it out loud.”

“It’s not pathetic. To a working mom of three what you just described sounds like paradise. James and I used to order Chinese and eat it without interruptions,” she said wistfully. “Anyway, tell me about this Army Sergeant VIP we’ve got scheduled for Wednesday. Is he hot?”

“Um, ew? I used to babysit him, Georgia.”

“So what? He could have grown up into G. I. frickin’ Joe. I hope he’s one of those buff, rugged-looking guys from the Army commercials.”

“I seriously doubt it. I’m actually surprised he joined the military. He was a scrawny kid and kind of a brat. He didn’t seem to have much respect for authority. Although to be fair, I doubt most nine-year-olds do.”

“Sorry to be so nosy. I’m just trying to find out more about you. If Scott didn’t drop by to see you, I probably wouldn’t even know he existed.”

“If it makes you feel better, I’ll be sure to tell you the next time we argue about which restaurant to choose.”

“Hah hah. Very funny. Well, whatever. I just want you to know you can talk to me about stuff if you need to.”

Heat rose along the back of Penny’s neck. It was only recently she’d started having doubts about her relationship. The uncertainty had been the cause of many a sleepless night lately. Scott was well educated, patient, and understanding of her crazy schedule. He didn’t expect her to whimper or flip her hair and act like a debutante. He respected her. Which was worlds above most of the other guys she’d dated. Their relationship was exactly what she’d always wanted.

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