Wiping the blood from my brow, I glared at Tito. The wound stung as sweat trickled into the open cut just above my swollen eye. He moved quickly, but I had more power. It felt like a game of cat and mouse. I let him feel confident in his abilities, before I made my move to take his ass down.
A sharp pain in my ribs stole my breath as I kicked him in the thigh before the bottom of my palm connected with his chin. As his head flew back, I grabbed him around the waist, lifting him off the ground, and threw him on his ass. When my body crashed on top of him, the dull pain in my ribs became excruciating. I couldn’t relent or release him. I fought through the discomfort and held him down as he kicked and flailed like a trapped bitch.
His grunts grew louder and I took the opportunity to hit him in the face as he was locked in my grip, turning red in the crook of my arm. The back of his heel connected with my calf and the muscle instantly tightened. My body may have been screaming for me to stop, but my determination to win the match had me push through the pain and not let go.
Blowing the whistle, the ref called the match to a close. Releasing him, I limped to my feet and held my ribs trying to catch my breath. I smiled for the cheering crowd as Tito crawled toward his trainer. I wanted to fall down and sprawl out against the cool plastic material, but I couldn’t, not yet at least.
“You won,” Rob yelled in my ear as he smacked me on the back.
I winced, closing my eyes to block everything out. Through gritted my teeth I said, “Fuck, don’t do that shit.” I exhaled slowly with shaky breath before opening my eyes to look at Rob.
His eyes grew wide as he searched my face, honing in on my hand. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“My fucking ribs. I think they’re broken. I can’t breathe,” I huffed out, struggling to speak.
“Let’s get you checked out. Make sure you didn’t puncture a lung or some shit,” he said as he wrapped his arms around my body and helped me out of the cage.
I closed my eyes and listened to the noise outside the room. Voices carried through the hallways – the cries, yelling, beeping, and telephones made it impossible to rest. I concentrated on my breathing, taking small shallow breathes to stave off the stabbing pain.
“Mr. Gallo,” a voice said from the doorway.
I jerked to sit up but the pain sliced through my chest like a knife stabbing me. I collapsed against the mattress and raised my hand. “Here,” I said before resting my hand on my chest.
Placing her hand on my shoulder, she smiled at me. “I see you’re here for your ribs.”
“What gave that away?” I said, a little pissed off.
She pulled her lips in her mouth hiding her smile. “On a scale of one to ten, how severe is the pain?”
“Seven when I breathe too deep and about a two if I don’t move and take short shallow breaths.”
“I need to remove your shirt,” she said, touching the bottom of my tank top. “This is going to hurt.”
“I can handle it, Doc. Do your worst.”
Her fingertips touched the flesh of my stomach and I twitched as her nail grazed the spot just above my shorts. “Sorry,” she said, blushing. “It may be easier if you sit up. Take my hand,” she said, releasing my tank and holding out her hand to me.
Holding my breath, I used my free hand to pull myself up with her help. It hadn’t been as painful as when I tried it on my own, but wasn’t comfortable either. “Whew,” I said as I inhaled and winced.
“Just sit there, sir, and I’ll do the rest.” Placing her body between my legs, she reached for my shirt again.
When a beautiful woman says she’s going to undress me, then have at it, I’d just sit back and watch.
Her facial features were petite, small nose, high cheekbones, and large hazel eyes. She glanced up at me as she pulled the material up, exposing my stomach. The feel of her fingers moving up the side of my body sent a shiver down my spine.
“Can you raise your arms or shall I cut it off?”
“I can do it.” I raised my arms, smiling through the pain, holding my breath.
“There,” she said, pulling it over my head. Moving to the side of me, she placed one hand on my back and the other on my chest.
Her touch seared my skin.
“Lie back,” she said softly.
With a very serious look on her face, she tried to hold up my body weight as I reclined.
“Which rib is giving you the problem?” she asked, looking down at my chest. She tilted her head; her eyes raked across my skin as her tongue darted out, sweeping against her bottom lip.
I needed to think of something else beside her sexy ass mouth.
Being in this position, a hard-on would be embarrassing.
“Left side.” I tried to think of the fight, or my sister sitting in the waiting room, as her fingertips glided across my skin. I felt the Doc’s touch everywhere, moving down to my toes. I stared at the ceiling and tried to wipe out all thought of her, but it’s pretty fucking impossible when a gorgeous woman is touching me.
“Right here?” she asked, pressing down.
My entire body jerked. My head flew off the tiny crappy pillow and my muscles tensed. “Fuck, Doc. Warn a person first, will ya?”
She bit her lip, her cheeks turning pink. “I’m sorry. Guess I did my worst.” She chuckled. “I think you need an x-ray to be sure you haven’t punctured your lung. How did you do this anyway?”
“I had a fight and the guy kneed me in the rib cage.”
She grimaced and sighed. “Men, I’ll never understand them.”
“Doc,” I placed my hand over hers, stilling her movement before I pitched tent. “It was a pro fight. I don’t do street fights and I’m not into bar room brawls.”
“Not much difference in my eyes when someone ends up here. Violence is violence.”
I said with a grin, “Oh, come on. You’ve never hit someone?”
“Not unless I was defending myself.” She pulled her hands back and picked up the chart from the table next to the gurney.
“Well, I was defending myself from his damn knee,” I laughed. “Ouch, fuck.”
“Did you win?” Raising her eyebrows and cocking her head, she stared at me with parted lips.
I wanted to grab her and sweep my tongue inside her mouth. Show her how a real man does it. My strength wasn’t only good in the ring, but I could hold her against the wall and make her dirty with barely any effort. “I always win.” I grinned, winking at her.
“Cocky bastard,” she muttered under her breath.
“My ribs hurt, but my hearing is fantastic, Doc.”
She ran her hands down her face to hide her smile. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me.”
“Make it up to me with dinner.” I touched her hand and saw her body twitch from the contact.
She felt it too – the connection… the spark between us.
“I don’t date men who use their fists, Mr. Gallo.”
“My hands have many other uses that you’d quite enjoy.”
She swallowed hard enough that I could hear it before she looked down at the chart and back at me. “I don’t date patients or cocky bastards,” she chuckled.
“Don’t know what you’re missing.”
“I have to go order your x-ray, Mr. Gallo, and I have other patients to see. I’ll be back to see you as soon as I get the results.”
“Just think about it, please? You’ve wounded my pride.” Pretending to be hurt I gripped my chest.
“You’re pride is just fine, it’s your lung I’m worried about. Stay put,” she said, as she started to walk away.
“Where would I go? I can’t even sit up without your help.”
“Good, then I’ll know where to find you,” she laughed and
Reaching down, I adjusted my dick in my shorts. Fuck, just talking to her made me semi-hard. The half-pitched tent vanished when a burly man walked through the door with an x-ray machine. Never thought I’d be happy to see a man.
His size made it easy for him to move me. After a few shots, he helped me sit up before he left.
I started thinking of all the lines I’d use on her. I wanted that date, but how could I get her to say yes.
My heart sunk when I heard, “Well, Mr. Gallo it looks like a clean fracture.” It wasn’t the sexy doctor but a man that spoke.
“Where’s the other doctor?” I asked, wanting to see her before I left.
“She’s busy and asked me to give you the good news and get you checked out.”
“Fuck,” I mumbled. She foiled my plans. I sighed, “So I’m good to go?”
“It’s going to take about four to six weeks to heal. You can tape them to relieve some of the pain if you’d liked.”
“I know. It’s not the first time I’ve cracked a rib.”
“Here’s the paperwork with instructions and make sure to follow up with your family doctor in a week or so.”
“Got it,” I said, as I grabbed the paperwork from his hand.
Grabbing my shirt, I stalked out of the room to find Izzy. The doctor brushed me off and I was pissed.
Human life seemed to be worthless to most people, that’s what I learned during my time as an emergency room physician.
I wanted to help people for as long as I could remember. My mom said I raided the medicine cabinet to fix my Cabbage Patch kids as a little girl.
Each day as I stood over my patients, trying to revive their lifeless bodies, my education and training felt meaningless. Medicine is still referred to as a practice. It hasn’t perfected and even with today’s advances in medicine, not everything can be fixed.
It’s a hard fact that I don’t always want to accept, but have no choice.
The hardest part of my job, the thing I dread most is informing a family that we were unable to save their loved one, despite our best efforts.
Those words left my mouth twice today and it had been soul crushing.
“Call it, Dr. Greco,” Dr. Patel said, as he stood next to the gurney.
I couldn’t stop myself from pushing down again. Sweat trickled down my cheeks, as a lump had formed in my throat. Maybe if I pushed one more time, I could get his heart to beat again.
“I can’t. Just give me a couple more minutes.” I pushed with such force I knew that a few ribs had cracked under my palm.
His life hadn’t even begun and I would be the one that called his time of death.
“Mia.” Dr. Patel placed his hands mine, snapping my mental focus – to save the boy’s life. “He’s gone. You’ve been working on him for over thirty minutes. His injuries are too grave. Call it or I will.”
Dr. Patel had been by my side today and knew the devastation that we were unable to repair – two car accidents, a gunshot victim, and the little blond haired angel in front of me – a victim of a hit and run driver.
How could someone hit a child and leave him in the street to die?
A child… a goddamn innocent little boy.
I looked at Dr. Patel and was struck by the weariness on his face. His eyes were bloodshot, the tiny creases around them looked deeper with big dark circles. I could see that the day had taken a toll on him too. I wasn’t alone in my despair.
I rested my palms against the boy’s chest and felt the silence within, there was no life left to save. “Time of death: seven-twenty-one P.M.” I closed my eyes and took a couple slow, steady breaths before I removed my hands. I wanted to run to the bathroom and throw up.
A third life I couldn’t save.
“I’ll go tell his parents, Mia. You’ve done enough today,” Patel said, placing his hand on my shoulder, giving it a tiny squeeze.
“Thank you, Eric.”
I usually argued with him. I wanted to be the one to talk with the families and help console them, but today, I had nothing. He patted my shoulder before leaving me with the boy that would never age or have the opportunity to experience all the joys in life.
I collapsed in the chair against the wall, pulling out my ponytail; I let my hair fall free. Placing my head in my hands, I ran my fingers through my hair as I tried to collect my thoughts.
More patients needed me, but I just needed a moment to myself. I couldn’t take another loss; I didn’t have anything left to give. Each time I lost someone, a small piece of my heart died.
Light footsteps broke my moment of serenity as I questioned my decision to work in an emergency room instead of an office practice like most of my classmates.
“Sorry to interrupt, Dr. Greco, I need to prep the body for the family to say their goodbyes,” the nurse said, as she grabbed a damp cloth to wipe down his bloodied face.
“It’s okay. I have patients to see. I just needed a moment to myself.”
She gave me a weak smile before beginning to clean the body. I couldn’t watch. I couldn’t take the sounds of the cries and utter grief that would fill this room. It took everything I had to climb to my feet and pull myself together. The ER had an endless stream of people.
I had one hour left until I could go home and crawl in bed.
I thought about moving back to Minnesota after I finished my internship, but Florida had become a part of me. I wanted to wear sandals year round, feel the sunshine on my face, and watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico from my beachfront home. I couldn’t go back – snow and I never got along.
My work had become my life, especially in the summer months when my parents went back home. They were snowbirds and came to Florida to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather when the deep freeze hit up North. They’d been gone a month as spring arrived back home. The quietness of my life had become almost deafening when I wasn’t at the hospital. Today I was thankful I didn’t have to go home and put on a cheery smile for them.
I felt needed here. I had something to contribute, something that many people didn’t. The local population was poor and I wanted to help. It had become my calling. I spent my free time helping at the free clinic in town, and helped raise money for the homeless youth that plagued the county.
I stayed for the clinic, where I volunteered, and the chance to make a difference.
My muscles revolted with each kick, every single one screamed for me to stop, but I couldn’t. I worked too damn hard to get to this point in my life to give up now. Sometimes I questioned my sanity for waking up at three in the morning to work out for hours at the gym, but my body had to be strong and I had to be ready to win my next fight.
“Pansy ass,” Rob yelled. “Harder. Your ribs have been healed for weeks. Show me what you’re made of already, Mike.”
He egged me on and did everything in the world to piss me off. Rob had been my trainer for two years. Most days, like today, I wanted to knock his fucking lights out, but I knew his methods were right in the end.
“Your sister hits harder than you,” he teased with a shit-eating grin on his face.
My sister, Izzy, is where the friend-trainer line crossed with Rob and I. They dated for a short time. When Izzy dumped him, I didn’t think we’d continue working together. In typical Rob fashion he brushed it off and moved on to the next notch in his bedpost.
“Cocksucker,” I said, hitting the target in his hand hard enough to cause Rob to stagger backward.
“Better,” he said, as he regained his stance. “Ten more minutes and then we’ll call it a day.”
My drive to be the champion was so strong that I could almost taste the next victory. I wanted to show my family that I had talent and the ability even though at times, at least in the beginning, their support had been questionable until recently.
I won my first two matches and with each victory their support grew and my pop finally
I grew up watching the fights with my pop and his buddies. They yelled at the television and made side bets. He liked to call my fighting career a hobby, but I needed to show him that it was more than that. I was meant to be the champion.
Wanting the gym all to myself when I trained, I paid the owner to wait until six in the morning to open the doors. He liked the idea of the publicity my victory and career would bring to his small town gym in the middle bum fuck Florida and it didn’t hurt that he was Rob’s brother either.
“’Bodies” by Drowning Pool started and it gave me the last push of motivation I needed. Sweat dripped from my brows and stung my eyes. Doing a roundhouse kick, I almost missed the target, nearly hitting Rob in the head.
“Maniac. I’ll knock you on your ass if you do that again.”
“In your fucking dreams, buddy,” I laughed before landing a solid blow.
My forearms burned, my thighs trembled, but I wouldn’t quit.
I had this shit.
“Time,” Rob said, putting the targets down.
“I could go another hour,” I said.
I knew that shit was a lie
I ran for an hour before I walked in this morning, my legs were shaking to the point of weakness.
“Sure you could, tiger.” He laughed, holding his stomach. “Your muscles need to rest and recoup. We don’t want to overdo it with the match coming up.”
“Thank Christ,” I mumbled under my breath.
“What did you say?” He cocked his eyebrow as he crossed his arms.
“Why do you seem so fucking pissy today, Mike? Couldn’t get it up last night?”
“That would seem like a fuckin’ blessing right now.” I sat on the bench to give my legs a break as I pulled the tape off my hands. “Tammy. What a fucking pain in my ass.”
“I told you she’s a crazy bitch. Stop thinking with your dick so much and use what brain is left in that thick head of yours.”
I snorted. That had been the funniest damn thing to come out his mouth in a long time – he sure as fuck wasn’t Dr. Ruth. “When did you become a relationship expert? Your shit isn’t all together in the ladies department, Rob.”
“Maybe not, but I told you Tammy was a hot mess. She’s got the cling thing going on and is crazy to fuckin’ boot.”
“Crazy is an understatement, man.” I shook my head. I had a silent debate with myself on if I wanted to share the details of the entire fucked up situation. “I went to her place last night to get a piece of ass.”
“And?” He leaned against the wall and listened.
“And the crazy bitch had a scrapbook on her coffee table. Do you know what the cover was?”
He started to laugh as he pulled his lips in his mouth to stop from breaking out into hysterics.
“You do, don’t you?” I glared at him.