Though Royal’s early morning guest was a female, she was not one of the many women on his social calendar. No, this female was his longtime friend and medical colleague – Dr. Layla Pacard.
“Mind if I crash here tonight? I’m too tired to drive home,” Layla asked, leaning lazily up against his door frame. “That’s if you don’t have company,” she added, quite aware of his bachelor status.
“It wouldn’t matter if I did. You know you’re always welcome here any time.” Royal smiled and opened the door wider for her to enter. This wasn’t the first time either of them had slept at the other’s home when exhausted from rounds or emergency surgeries.
“Thanks, Royal.” Layla stepped inside. Yet instead of heading for a guest bedroom as usual, she headed for the den. “If you don’t mind, can we sit and talk awhile?”
“Sure.” Royal closed the door and locked it behind them. “What’s on your mind?” he asked, following her to the den.
“The patient I just left. I’ve done everything I know to do and she’s still not progressing as expected,” Layla replied. Then she began to share the basic details of the patient’s file.
Royal listened intently to her concerns while he silently sipped from his bottle of orange juice. When Layla was done, he offered his own medical advice on how to treat that particular patient for maximum benefit, prompting Layla to have the usual light bulb moment.
“Royal, I truly don’t know what I would do without you,” Layla said, looking at him in wonder. “Carmen was right. You are a genius.” She took a sip from her own bottle of juice.
“Mothers are supposed to say stuff like that.” Royal chuckled and got up for another bottle of juice from the small refrigerator in his den.
Layla laughed, too. “I know, but in your case, your mother is right on the mark.”
“I agree.” Royal grinned, showing that arrogant side to him. “You want more juice?” He held up an additional bottle of orange juice for her.
Layla’s breath hitched at those adorable dimples of his. “No, I’ve had enough,” she forced out, finding herself even more attracted to him.
Layla has had a secret crush on Royal ever since they met in medical school. His GGC (good looks, genius, and confidence) had been instant drawing cards. Royal’s trustworthy nature had been another, especially for a woman like Layla whose tumultuous background made it hard for her to trust others or show any real depth of emotion.
Though Layla kept her crush in the me-myself-and-I zone for years out of the fear of rejection, she planned to venture out of her shell this year. She would do so inch by inch as her confidence level rose.
Despite the late hour, Layla decided to make the first of many slow moves towards her ultimate goal right now. “Royal, I see you haven’t opened your mother’s newsletter yet,” she said, pointing to the red envelope on his coffee table as she smoothly changed the subject.
“No need to. I already know what’s in it and so do you,” Royal replied, alluding to the close relationship she had with his mother. In fact, Layla and Carmen were so close that they were avid shopping buddies, hitting the local malls up together nearly every weekend.
Layla chuckled. “I admit I have heard a few things from your mother. Things that make me wish for a family of my own.” With you, she added silently, admiring Royal’s muscular frame and smooth olive skin as he closed the refrigerator and walked back towards the sofa she sat on. If sex appeal could be bottled and sold, this man would make millions.
“Feel free to keep enjoying my family. There’s definitely enough of us in the two-state area,” Royal replied, fully aware of Layla’s foster care background, though he was not yet aware of her secret crush on him.
“Thanks for sharing your family with me, Royal. It means a lot to me,” Layla said, feeling the pain concerning her lack of family, but not showing the slightest emotion about it. But then again, emotional displays just weren’t her thing.
“Speaking of your family, what do you think about your cousin Aisha marrying that ex-thug?” Layla asked as he sat back down beside her.
“I think I’m happy as long as she’s happy.” Royal twisted the top off the bottle in his hands and lifted the beverage to his mouth.
“Carmen thinks Aisha has lost her ever-loving mind,” Layla said, watching his Adam’s apple bob up and down as he took a long swig of his drink.
Chuckling, Royal lowered the bottle from his lips. “Why am I not surprised to hear that? What my mother failed to tell you is that Aisha’s always been a very smart girl. She’s the female counterpart to me, if you will. Which means this Bonz guy must be pretty special and completely reformed if Aisha is taking this kind of chance on him.”
“If the shoe was on the other foot, would you take that kind of chance on a woman with a checkered past?” Layla asked, needing that answer like she needed to breathe.
Royal grew thoughtful for a moment, taking another long swig of his juice in the process. “I would take a chance on a woman with a checkered past, if I was truly in love with her,” he finally replied. “Matter of fact, if I ever do fall in love, I’m not going to let anything or anyone stand in the way of that love.”
Layla smiled with relief. She liked hearing that. Not just because her own past was a bit on the checkered side and included childhood molestation issues, but also because Royal was actually considering falling in love one day. Before today, he seemed content to stay a confirmed heterosexual bachelor for the rest of his life.
“Well said, Royal. By the way, thanks again for letting me crash here tonight.” Layla yawned, feeling the hands of the sandman trying to claim her. She quickly snapped her mouth shut, determined to fight her drowsiness.
Layla wasn’t ready to go to the usual guest bedroom yet. Not when she wanted to go to Royal’s bedroom instead. If only she was bold enough to just tell him about her crush. Since she wasn’t, Layla would just have to be content to sleep under the same roof as him, despite their separate rooms.
Just then, Royal’s cell phone went off from its resting place on the den countertop.
Layla frowned, hoping that it was the hospital calling for him. She didn’t know if she could stand another night of hearing him make some other woman moan in ecstasy.
Royal rose from the couch and went to answer the phone, taking the empty juice bottles they’d used with him for the trash can. As expected, that call was from the hospital. One of his patients had gone into labor and he was needed on site.
“I’ll be right there,” Royal told the caller. When the call concluded, he turned to address Layla. “I might not be back before you leave, so just lock up on your way out, all right?”
“All right,” Layla replied, relieved that he was not going to spend time with one of his lovers.
I’m going to be your lover one day, Royal. Your ‘only’ lover, she mused, finally rising to her feet as she yawned again. It was time to go to bed…alone…for the moment.
© 2008 by Suprina Frazier