by Jaime Clevenger
What would you do for forty-one million dollars?
For Elizabeth Samuels, it’s not some hypothetical what-if. It’s the very real inheritance she stands to gain if she follows the stipulations in her grandfather’s will when she takes over his family practice. The only problem? The stipulations mean a life she doesn’t want.
Terri Anderson knows better than to get involved with her resident. She’s had a work romance before—it didn’t end well and she doesn’t want to be part of the gossip mill all over again. But with Sam, keeping her distance is easier said than done.
When Sam considers walking away from medicine, Terri knows she can’t let her make that huge mistake. But changing Sam’s mind means getting close. A little too close.
With so much at stake, now is definitely not the time to fall in love.
A Paradise Romance.
GCLS Goldie Awards
Just One Reason—Finalist, Contemporary Romance: Long Novels.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"Growing up in Northern California, I wasn’t the only kid who wanted to surf. On scorching hot summer days, my parents would take me and my brothers to Santa Cruz for "a day of air-conditioning." We had beat-up boogey boards and surfboards that liked to scoot out from under us at the first sign of a good wave, but I didn’t mind. Splashing around in the ocean with the warm sun on my back always made for a perfect day.
When I was planning out the setting for this last book in the Paradise series, I immediately thought of Santa Cruz. But Santa Cruz didn’t make sense because all three books were supposed to be set in tropical locations. Still the idea took hold and I couldn’t let go of it. I wanted an excuse to picture my favorite beach, to hear the bark of the sea lions, smell the ocean breeze, and imagine jumping in the icy waves. So I decided that paradise isn’t always found in the tropics. Sometimes it’s in a memory of a place that will always hold a piece of your heart."
The Lesbian Review
I had a lot of fun reading Just One Reason. I enjoy diving into a traditional romance where I know exactly what I’m going to get, and then being delighted with a host of clever details that make the story feel fresh and brand new. This book checked all the boxes on my list of what I want in a good book.
Digby M. - I don’t want to spoil things, but I was cheering this couple on and I wasn’t disappointed. Communication happens and it is beautiful and sweet, but not without a splash of angst. This book gave me all of the feels and really hit a home run with thoughtful, meaningful dialogue.
Bookvark - This is the third installment of the Paradise Romance series. I have gotten so much entertainment out of these books. I love the characters and friend group. That while each story focuses on a new budding relationship, the same characters pop in and we see that they continue to progress in their respective partnerships. There is always so much more depth and satisfaction when the writer can put people through the ringer so that they come out on the other side shiny and happy. Overall, this is another great addition to the Paradise Romance series.
Between yes and no there were a whole line of maybes. That one seemingly innocent word had gotten Terri Anderson into more trouble than any other. But never had maybe gotten her signed up for a ballroom dance class.
“I didn’t promise. I said maybe.” Terri rubbed the back of her neck, willing away a headache. The last thing she wanted to do tonight was learn how to waltz. If she ever got to the bottom of the stack of charts she needed to write, she still had at least an hour’s worth of patient phone calls to make. “Besides, I don’t see why you need me. You’ll have Julia.”
“And I need you for moral support. Please? Pretty please?”
Terri smiled, not that Reed could see. “You sound like one of your kids. Just don’t say with a cherry on top.”
“Pretty please with a cherry on top?” Reed chuckled. “You can’t stop me. We aren’t even on the same floor. I’m all the way up on seventh and you’re probably stuck on third.”
“You should see how fast I run those stairs. I’m like a little billy goat. Wait, what do they call girl goats? Hold on a minute.” Terri held the phone away from her ear and motioned to the intern who had popped out of room 306. “We need a urine sample from that patient. Did you remind her?”
“She says she doesn’t need to pee.”
Terri struggled to remember the intern’s name. Too many new faces had appeared in the last month. July was always barely managed chaos. A fresh class of interns filled the halls, tempers flared along with the heat—welcome to Sacramento General—and there were no slow days. “She might not feel like she has to pee, but after two liters of fluid she needs to pee. Trust me.”
Terri held the phone back up to her ear. “I’ve had a hell of a day, Reed, but I’m saying yes because I owe you for that carcinoma case. How you spotted that lesion, I’ll never know—”
“You’re the best, Terri. By the way, girls are called nanny goats. Can you make it by seven?”
“I read it in one of my kids’ books. Bryn decided she wanted to move to a farm, but Carly had a breakdown because she’s terrified of chickens. We compromised by getting all the library books on farming. The good news is I finally understand crop rotation and I’m pretty sure I could milk a cow.”
“Seriously, no one knows more useless facts than you.”
“So you’ll be there?”
Terri glanced at her watch. Half past five. If everything went according to plan, she’d have enough time to race home for a shower. “I’ll make it. But I still think you can do this without me.”
“You’ve seen me dance. I need my personal physician on standby. And my therapist. You happen to be both.”
Terri almost felt bad for Reed. Except she was engaged to an amazing woman and only needed to get through one song. “You might be making this into a bigger deal than it is.”
“Everyone’s gonna be staring at us. What if I choke and forget how to move my feet?”
“Better than stepping on Julia’s feet.”
“Very funny,” Reed grumbled. “We’re meeting at the pub next to the dance studio for drinks first. I’ll text you the address.”
“You hoping alcohol is going to make you Fred Astaire?”
“No. I gotta be realistic. I’m hoping I’ll look like one of those inflatable tube men at a car lot.”
Terri laughed loud enough to get a sharp look from the nursing station. She waved off the eye roll from JoAnne, her favorite stodgy nurse.
“Excuse me, Dr. Anderson?” The intern had reappeared in the hallway. Her scrubs were wet and she tugged on the fabric with a look that promised tears were on their way.
“Reed, I gotta go. See you tonight.” Terri ended the call and studied the intern. “Looks like that didn’t go so well.”
“I was helping her out of bed and she peed. On me.”
“Did you catch any?”
“No.” She dropped her gaze to study her shiny new Danskos.
“It’s okay. We’ll get that sample.” Terri sighed. “Why don’t you go get changed and grab something to eat. You still want to be a doctor, right?”
They’d both had a long day and she couldn’t run the kid too hard. “Get your patient some juice and then sit down and talk. Eventually your new friend will pee.”
* * *
Ten minutes into the walk and beads of sweat dripped down her back. The city seemed subdued, as if all of Sacramento was considering a siesta. Even on Sixteenth Street the traffic seemed to only inch along.
Terri longed to go back to the cool shower she’d raced through or at least her living room with the A/C blasting. After another twelve-hour day, kicking her feet up on the sofa for a Netflix binge sounded perfect. Instead…ballroom dancing.
She crossed at the intersection, her tank top already sticking to her damp skin, and angled toward a blinking neon sign advertising the pub with a giant bottle of beer. The dance studio next door had a more subtle sign.
“Terri!” Julia, Reed’s fiancée, waved as she hurried up the sidewalk. “I’d give you a hug but it’s too hot.”
“No joke. When is July going to be over?” Of course August wouldn’t be any better. At this rate, the heat would last until the pumpkin spice lattes appeared. “You look fabulous. New skirt?”
Julia nodded. “I told Reed I’d wear something to distract her. She’s been stressing all week about this. And I don’t know what she said to get you here, but thank you.”
“This is probably good for me. I keep saying I need to get out more, but then I come home and take my shoes off and the rest of the night is history.”
“Maybe you’ll meet someone tonight.”
“While waltzing? Highly unlikely.” She’d given up on randomly meeting anyone. She’d also given up on her online prospects. Once she’d settled on being happily single, reentry in the dating world seemed more hassle than it was worth. “If we get Reed through this dance class, I’ll call the evening a win.”
“We’ll both call it a win,” Julia agreed. “I told her that a wedding dance was no big deal, but she insisted we needed a class. Then after we were signed up, she started worrying that everyone else would be straight.”
“I don’t think it’s the straight people she has to worry about. Have you seen her dance?”
“I have.” Julia frowned. “She has many, many other talents.”
They stepped inside and a wall of delicious icy air greeted them. Terri took a moment to adjust to the dim lighting. If only they could spend the rest of the evening here.
“Mo and Kate said they might come, but then they both had work commitments tonight…” Julia scanned the crowd. “Reed did manage to convince one of her residents.”
“She asked a resident?”
“Her name’s Sam. Reed says she’s Family, but that’s all I know. Oh, there’s Reed.” Julia gave a soft moan. “Sometimes I don’t know how I got so lucky.”
Terri would have teased her for the moan, but she was stuck on the detail that Reed had invited a resident. No amount of air conditioning could make her interested in small talk with a resident. Later she’d give Reed a hard time for not warning her.
Reed pushed her Clark Kent glasses up on her nose and headed their way. In a few strides, she’d passed the other tables to wrap her arms around Julia. The two shared a big kiss, seemingly uncaring of any onlookers. Tall, slightly nerdy, and enough of a butch to make her irresistible, Reed was a polar opposite to Julia, who fit the bill of a curvy, fashionable femme with an extrovert’s ability to win over anyone. But they were a perfect couple.
After another deep kiss, Terri cleared her throat. “All right, you two lovebirds. Save it for the wedding.”
Reed pulled back. She at least had the decency to look extremely satisfied with her luck in love.
“I brought you a surprise,” Reed said.
Terri cocked her head. “You brought me a surprise?”
“Think of it as the cherry on top. You’re going to hate me at first for it, but then I know you’re gonna thank me later.”
“Okay, now I’m worried.”
“You probably should be. I’ve never tried matchmaking.”
“Oh, no.” In one second it clicked. The resident. “Reed, please say you didn’t.”
“But I did.” Reed grinned, clearly pleased with herself.
Terri wanted to grab Reed by her tie and pull her out of the pub to give her a piece of her mind. Sure, plenty of attendings dated residents, even if it was heartily discouraged. The problem was her history. It simply couldn’t happen again.
She had no time to argue. Reed started to their table with Julia’s hand locked in hers and, steeling herself for who she might see, Terri glanced to the back corner. A blush immediately shot up to her cheeks.
Of course it’s her.
Reed had found the one resident that could easily grace the cover of a lesbian GQ. Terri had spent the past year actively trying not to notice her. Unfortunately there were only so many butch women in the hospital, and none of them were as hot as Elizabeth Samuels.
Tonight her scrubs had been exchanged for a pair of tailored dark gray slacks and a collared paisley shirt with sleeves rolled up to her elbows. The top two buttons of her shirt were undone in a casual look that only made her more appealing. She kept her short brown hair in a messy cut that Terri could almost imagine running her fingers through. But it was her broad shoulders and fit athletic build that really were the problem. No doubt she could pin someone on a bed. For whatever reason.
Terri’s mouth went dry when she met her gaze and smiled. Of course she had a perfect smile. Probably she was an amazing kisser too. But that didn’t mean she’d be interesting. Or even nice. With luck, she’d be an annoying know-it-all.
As soon as they reached the table, Reed made quick introductions. Elizabeth Samuels went by Sam. She shook Julia’s hand first and then turned to Terri.
Dark blue eyes settled on her and Terri couldn’t hide a fresh blush. She tried to keep her pulse in check as she reached across the table to clasp Sam’s hand. Smooth skin and a firm grip—the universe clearly had it out for her. I’m not dating a resident. Not again.
“I’m happy to finally meet you,” Sam said. “I keep hearing your name around the hospital.”
Reed coughed and Terri’s eyes darted to her. Oh, she’d definitely pay her back later for this.
“And not only from a certain radiology guru,” Sam added.
“Really? Who else?” Terri wished she’d thought before the question slipped out. She didn’t want, or need, to hear accolades, but now it sounded as if she were fishing for exactly that.
“My friend Carter told me I should pay attention to you and then I heard the same thing from about a half a dozen other residents. And Shellhammer over in ICU calls you the boss-diggity-dog.”
“Shellhammer’s right,” Reed agreed. Her wink across the table at Terri wasn’t subtle. “Boss-diggity.”
Reed pulled out a chair for Julia and promptly sat down next to her. The only remaining seat was the one next to Sam’s. Terri felt Sam waiting. Sitting down next to her would only add to the feeling of being on a double date. She looked up from the empty seat and Sam’s eyes caught hers. A warmth swept through her body, and she quickly took her seat, knowing her cheeks had betrayed her again. Sam sat down, and Terri avoided looking her direction.
“Didn’t you say that Shellhammer told you to spy on Terri?” Reed asked.
“He did,” Sam said.
“So did you actually spy on her?” Julia asked.
“Well, not creepy stalking or anything. I checked out a few cases and talked to some residents.”
Julia raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, that sounds like spying.”
Sam’s smile was sheepish. “Dr. Anderson’s got a reputation for being the best internist in pediatrics. I wanted to know why.”
“You can call me Terri. We’re not in the hospital.” Terri wasn’t sure what to say about the spying part, however. And was it better or worse that Sam was buttering her up with compliments? She had enough to worry about with the tingling sensation that zipped through her body every time Sam looked her way.
“Terri’s rep is well earned,” Reed said. “She’s saved a lot of lives.”
“You have a lot to do with that,” Terri returned. “It’s nice to have a radiologist who doubles as a rock star internist on speed dial.”
“Which is the only reason you agreed to ballroom dancing.”
“True.” Terri wanted to add that Reed owed her double for letting a resident tag along. Especially this particular resident.
“I need both of you on speed dial when I’m seeing my own cases,” Sam said.
“For the next two years, you’ll have us,” Reed said. “After that…”
“After that, you might have to block my number ’cause I’m gonna keep calling.” Sam looked over at Terri. “Is now a good time to ask for yours?”
Reed chuckled. “You gotta work on your pickup lines, my friend.”
Finally it was Sam’s turn to blush. “That’s not what I meant. I mean I would ask for your number but…not like that.” She blew out a breath and added, “I promise I’m cooler than I seem right now.”
“That’s too bad,” Terri said. “I was starting to think you were tolerable.”
“Well, I’m not that much cooler.”
Terri couldn’t help smiling. Being the recipient of Sam’s attempts to impress wasn’t completely awful. It wasn’t going to work of course, but still.
“I’ve got a Cherry Coke and a margarita?” The waitress glanced from Julia to Terri since Reed and Sam both already had drinks.
“The margarita’s mine.” Julia leaned close and kissed Reed. “Thanks for ordering for me, sweetie.”
“Then I’m guessing the Cherry Coke’s for you.” The waitress placed the soda in front of Terri with a smile.
“Thank you.” Terri reached for the glass. Reed inviting Sam was akin to handing her a cool soda after a long walk in the desert. So tempting. The soda she wouldn’t say no to, but Sam she had to resist.
“So, Sam, how’d Reed convince you to come dancing?”
Reed spoke up before Sam could: “Someone kind of invited herself.”
“Only because you were tripping about being the only woman in a tie at a straight dance class. And then I didn’t have time to go home and get my tie.”
The image of Sam in a tie was not what she needed to think about. She sucked down a big sip of the soda, thankful no one could read her thoughts.
“I don’t usually invite myself to things. But I love dancing and my friends all got stuck working late.”
“Benefits of radiology,” Reed said. “We know when to call it a day and go home.”
“Or go out dancing,” Julia added.
“Or do that.” Reed wrapped an arm around Julia’s chair. “Gosh, I can’t wait to waltz with you.”
“Gosh?” Julia leaned close and pecked Reed’s cheek. “Sweetie, no one believes you want to do this, but there’s a possibility you might like it.”
“There’s also a possibility I’ll injure one of us.” Reed countered. “We could skip the wedding, you know, and go on a longer honeymoon.”
“You want to miss your wedding night with me?” Julia waggled her eyebrows.
“Not when you put it that way.” Reed returned the waggling eyebrows, laughing as she did.
“When’s the wedding?” Sam asked.
“Do you two have a photographer? Before med school, that was my full-time job. I’ve shot a lot of weddings.”
Terri wondered how old Sam might be. She seemed more mature than a lot of the residents, and there was a chance she was older if she’d had the photography gig for a while. But how much older? Probably not enough.
Julia looked at Reed and then back at Sam. “We don’t. Are you offering?”
“I’d love to. Assuming I can get away from the hospital.”
“I can pull some strings,” Reed said. “You won’t need that much time off anyway. The wedding’s going to be close. We’re getting married at a little winery in Napa.”
“You get me the time off and I’ll take the pictures.”
Julia clapped her hands together. “This is perfect! Reed kept saying all of our friends could take pictures, but I wanted a real photographer.”
“You know it’s all about what the bride wants,” Sam said, clinking Reed’s bottle against hers. “Didn’t you get that memo?”
“So, let me get this right,” Julia started. “You’re a photographer, a doctor, and you waltz? Do you put all of that on your dating profile?”
“Usually I lead with a bit about stamp collecting.” Sam grinned. “I don’t get a whole lot of matches.”
“Stamp collecting? Are you serious?” Reed squinted at Sam. “How old are you? Eighty-seven?”
“Close. Thirty-one. And you can see my stamp collection whenever you want. But tonight I’m gonna wow you all with my completely uncool waltzing.” Sam struck a pose and everyone laughed.
Terri’s body warmed when Sam joined in. She held onto Sam’s gaze even when she knew she ought to look away. Someone who could poke fun at themselves got major points in her book. But a resident was automatically disqualified, she reminded herself. And thirty-one? No way.
“How’d you get into ballroom dancing?” Julia asked.
“My folks sent me to an all-girls private school and ballroom dancing was required. Since I was tall and not exactly girly, I got picked for lead all the time. I didn’t think I’d like it at first, but there’s nothing like having a beautiful girl put her hands on your body and ask you to make the next move.”
Reed scratched her head. “Maybe I need to reframe this waltzing thing in my mind.”
Julia bumped against her shoulder. “Ahem. Suddenly you’re realizing that it won’t be so awful to dance with me?”
“So where do you fall, Terri?” Sam asked. “Are you a dancing queen or only here ’cause Reed sounded pathetic when she called you?” Sam ducked when Reed playfully swatted at her.
“Definitely not a dancing queen. I like to dance, but I have to be in the mood.”
“Meaning the right partner?”
Terri shrugged. She didn’t want to take Sam’s bait. “More the right scene. I like dance clubs.”
“Lots of sweaty sexy bodies and a nice hard beat?”
The tone of Sam’s voice wasn’t suggestive, but her words had Terri stumbling for an answer. It didn’t help that Sam’s eyes were locked on hers and the smile on her lips had a wicked certainty to it.
Terri cocked her head. “You spying on me in dance clubs too? You should probably stop.”
The confidence in Sam’s eyes slipped away. Maybe she didn’t fully understand the risks, but Terri knew all too well. Setting boundaries was for the best.
“I really haven’t been spying. I mean, I did follow some of your cases, but only because Weiss and Shellhammer both told me I should.”
“Wait, Weiss told you to spy on me too?” David Weiss was the chief of medicine—effectively Terri’s boss as well as everyone else’s.
“Weiss is an old family friend. He was close with my grandpa. Anyway, my point was that he thinks highly of you.” Sam held Terri’s gaze. “I’m sorry if I was out of line with that dance club stuff.”
The concern on Sam’s face was obvious, and Terri decided she’d made her sweat enough. “Okay. Apology accepted.”
“I can’t wait to see you two in rounds together.” Reed leaned across the table to pat Sam’s shoulder. “Be prepared to get whipped, my friend.”
“I don’t think whipping will be necessary.” A flush went through Terri and she didn’t dare look in Sam’s direction. Whipping? Seriously? Hoping to deflect, she quickly added, “How long are you in Radiology?”
“Two more weeks. Then I’m on Med-Peds.”
“Med-Peds?” Julia’s eyebrows bunched together.
“Internal medicine-pediatrics,” Reed answered.
While every resident cycled through internal medicine and most spent at least a month in pediatrics, not every resident ended up working with her. With any luck, Sam would be scheduled with McReynolds. “Who’s schedule are you on?”
Shit. Terri cleared her throat. Now she really had a problem on her hands. “I shouldn’t have made that whipping comment. It was inappropriate and—”
“And funny,” Sam finished. “Now we’re even.”
Even? Terri wasn’t sure what was worse—that she needed to have the upper hand with Sam or that part of her liked when she lost it.
“Sometimes I’d like to be a fly on the wall in that hospital of yours,” Julia said.
Reed shook her head. “Terri would grab a fly swatter and take you out in two seconds flat.”
“I would. Sorry, Julia. I’m a hard ass. I do my job and expect everyone else to do theirs.” She hoped Sam understood exactly what she meant by that.
“In the meantime, lives get saved but the flies are screwed.” Reed tipped back her bottle, finishing the last of her beer. She eyed her watch. “All right. Time to face the gallows.”
Terri carefully avoided bumping Sam’s chair as she stood up. Gallows might be an exaggeration, but she wanted to skip the dance class as much as Reed did. And yet she wondered exactly what she was dreading.
No harm would come from one dance class. Even if someone from the hospital saw them together, she could easily explain it. All she needed to do was get through the evening—then promptly forget any attraction to Elizabeth Samuels.
Who knew that Dr. Anderson—Terri—had tattoos? And not simply a rose or a little butterfly on a shoulder or an ankle. Some artist had spent some serious time on her arms and back, and although the dark green tank top concealed some skin, the wing of a bird peeked out where the fabric scooped low over her cleavage, making it even harder for Sam not to stare at her chest.
The pub had been a near-complete disaster. Not only had she talked too much, she’d taken things too far with the dance club comments. The look on Terri’s face then had spoken volumes. Now she had to get through the next hour without saying, or doing, something stupid.
Probably she had no business going for the aloof powerhouse that ruled the third floor of the hospital in the first place. But despite all the ways she’d screwed up, her body stirred with arousal when the dance teacher had motioned for Terri to stand next to her.
“Can I ask a favor?”
Terri glanced up from her purse. She’d gone to check her phone again—the third text notification in ten minutes. But this time, Sam noticed, she hadn’t responded and instead turned her phone on silent.
“Sure.” Terri tucked the phone into the front pocket of her purse and then straightened up. “What is it?”
“For the next hour, can we pretend that you’re not an attending and I’m not a resident?” It was a ridiculous request, but she had to ask anyway. When Terri didn’t respond right off, Sam added, “There’s a chance I’ll step on your toes.”
“So it’s not that you’re worried about all of this ending up on your review?” A hint of a smile crossed Terri’s lips.
She rocked her head side to side as if weighing her options. “Okay. One hour off the record. But step lightly. I’m wearing sandals.”
Sam let out the breath she’d been holding. “You got it.”
So far, they’d only gone through hand positions and the footsteps for a basic box step. The dance instructor had stopped there to go around the room and check in with everyone. Then she’d started chatting. Sam wished she’d hurry up so she could get over the hurdle of taking Terri’s hand.
It hadn’t taken Weiss or Shellhammer’s advice to get her to pay attention to Terri. Between the long curly red hair hardly tamed by the clip at the back of her slender neck, arresting green eyes, and a confidence that roared through her, Terri was impossible not to notice. Sam couldn’t keep her eyes off of her.
As far as hospital gossip went, the jury was out on if she was dating anyone. Aside from Reed, she seemed to keep to herself. One nurse let it slide that she’d dated both men and women in the past and a rumor circulated that she’d been in a love triangle with two residents years ago, but most of the details sounded too crazy to believe.
“So I’m guessing you don’t usually make a habit of taking dance classes with residents?”
“Not since that last twerking episode.”
Terri’s smile finally cracked. “I’m trying to lighten the mood.”
“For a minute there I had this image of you—”
Terri held up her hands. “Please erase that image.”
Sam laughed. “I don’t think I can.” Joking was definitely progress. And when Terri relaxed and really smiled, she was even more attractive.
“Hey, one hour off the record applies to me too.”
“Okay, okay.” Sam stopped laughing. “Honestly after you jumped on me about the spying thing I thought you were a tight ass, but one joke about twerking and you’ve completely changed my mind.”
“I didn’t jump on you. Let’s not start that rumor too.”
Immediately Sam thought of the love triangle rumor. Could it be true?
Terri continued, “I’m sorry I was harsh earlier, but I didn’t want to give you the wrong idea. Reed socializes with residents. I don’t. It’s nothing personal.”
Nothing personal. Terri certainly knew how to slap her ego. But Sam wasn’t giving up that easy. “Good thing I’m not a resident for the next fifty-three minutes.”
“Smooth. Very smooth.”
“And while we’re off the record, would you mind if I get something off my chest?”
“Fifty-two minutes and counting. Now’s your chance.”
“I like club dancing better than ballroom.”
“So the crowded dance club with the sexy sweaty bodies is actually your thing?”
“I’d say it’s a shared thing,” Sam returned. “Dance club later?”
“Not a chance—but nice try.” Terri continued, “I kind of liked the image of teenage Sam stuck in a private school ballroom making all the preppy girls swoon better than dance club Sam.”
“I don’t think any swooning happened.”
“Oh, I’m sure there was some. You’ve got the suave debonair thing down. How many girlfriends did you have back then?”
Sam nodded. “Her parents found out and pulled her from school. Honestly I don’t have the best luck with relationships. Lately I’ve settled for the friends with benefits thing.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with the sex with strangers thing either. Residents have a hard schedule. You can’t expect it’s going to work dating a normal person.”
“Sex with strangers? You’ve done that?”
“Because we both know that we’re going to remember this conversation, even if it’s off the record, I’m not going to answer that. All I’ll say is that I don’t fault anyone for their choices as long as everyone’s consenting.”
Sam wasn’t sure why she was surprised at the thought of Terri having sex with strangers. Maybe because she seemed like the type of woman that someone would try and tie down. Figuratively or literally. Sam swallowed as her thoughts tumbled that direction. Terri, in handcuffs, on her bed…
“Did I say too much? You’ve got this look on your face that has me worried.” Terri pursed her lips. “This one hour off the record thing might be a bad idea.”
“I was only thinking…I’m not sure I’d want to have sex with strangers. If it’s good sex, I wouldn’t want them to stay strangers.”
“Some people don’t want commitment.” Terri looked as if she wanted to say more, but the instructor had finished going around the room and clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention.
“Leads, please take your partner’s hand.”
Sam took a deep breath and held out her hand. “Remember, this doesn’t go on my review.”
“What if you’re good?”
Sam grinned. “There are so many things I could say in response to that.”
“Very funny. But I only meant dancing.”
The first notes of “The Blue Danube” filled the space, and Sam shifted in front of Terri. Her heart raced as Terri’s palm pressed against hers, and she hoped she’d remember the dance moves. She placed her other hand on the smooth line of Terri’s shoulder blade. Nerves fired at every point their skin made contact.
Terri dipped her head. The nod was subtle, but the effect—no words, only acquiescence—kicked up Sam’s arousal. Terri’s hand settled on her upper arm, and Sam immediately wondered what her lips would feel like. She stepped forward and they were in motion.
Sam fell into the steps, letting the music carry her, and before long the room slipped away. She forgot about everything except the place where Terri’s hand rested on her arm and the feeling in her body when Terri’s eyes held hers.
“I don’t think you need this class,” Terri said. She moved close as they stepped around another couple and the scent of her perfume caught Sam’s attention.
“I’ll take that compliment.” Sam shifted their path toward a space in the center of the room.
“You should. I don’t give compliments out often, so you might want to hold onto it.”
“So you’re never going to tell me that my records are stellar or that I have amazing diagnostic abilities?”
“Then after a long day seeing patients, I’ll have to remember that at least I’m good at waltzing. I’m sure it’ll come in handy at some point.”
Sam congratulated herself on Terri’s smirk. She added, “This isn’t your first time either. Or you’re a quick study.”
“I’m a quick study on a lot of things.”
The innuendo lit through Sam. “Why am I not surprised? You know, I fully expect you’ll ignore me after tonight, but this is nice.”
“As long as we’re on the same page,” Terri returned.
Sam knew she didn’t have much of a chance, but the way Terri looked at her, her gaze an open challenge, made her want to try even harder to win her over.
They passed by Reed and Julia who still hadn’t moved from their starting spot. “You two doing okay?” Sam asked.
Julia pursed her lips. “We’re getting there.”
“Okay, so it goes: one-two-three. Right?” Reed’s brow furrowed as she studied her feet.
“Sweetie, it’s possible you’re overthinking this,” Julia said. “Maybe we could try it without saying the numbers at all.”
“I heard somewhere that everyone looks at the bride anyway. What if I stand in one spot and you dance around me?”
Julia shook her head. “The fact that you’re sexy is not enough to get you out of this dancing thing.”
“I could try to be sexier.”
“Not possible.” Julia stood on her tip-toes and pecked Reed’s cheek.
Sam looked back at Terri. “They’re adorable.”
“And perfect for each other. Some people get lucky in life.”
“But at the moment it looks like she’d rather be passing a kidney stone.”
Terri squinted at the pair. “Which one?”
Sam laughed. Terri’s subtle sarcastic humor wasn’t something she’d expected. Then again, she’d had no idea what to expect from tonight. The instructor switched off the music, ending on an open note that would likely have made Strauss turn in his grave, and Sam reluctantly let go of Terri’s hand.
“Let’s try this again with new partners,” the instructor announced, quickly pointing off pairs.
Sam swallowed her disappointment and made her way over to where her new partner waited. She shook the woman’s hand and then glanced back at Terri. Her new partner said something to make her smile, and although Sam knew she had no claim to her, she felt a flush of jealousy when he took Terri’s hand.
Sam held out her hand and her new partner clasped it. The feel of the stranger’s grip on her arm confirmed that she didn’t want to dance with anyone except Terri.