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the door to my office, sinking against the wall and falling to the floor. As if having to massage his fucking thighs and groin weren’t bad enough, I had to deal with him touching me? Yeah, maybe it was no big deal, but the act of touching my hair like that was so familiar, so intimate, it had completely unnerved me.

I’d never imagined it would be this hard to see him again. I’d been so in love with him, as much as a naive teenager can be in love. But over the years, his effect on me had lessened to a tolerable level, and I’d learned how to push the thought of him far in the back of my mind. In just a few years, he’d demolished years worth of resistance that I’d built up.

I felt like a teenager all over again. Fumbling, stumbling, butterflies, sweaty palms and a fluttering heartbeat. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say I had a virus. But I didn’t. It was all Jesse. I was sick with every emotion under the sun right now, and if I didn’t get a grip on it, I was going to lose everything I’d worked so fucking hard for. My job. My stability.

I couldn’t do that. I owed it to Maddy to keep my shit together. She needed a parent that didn’t fall apart just because my past had marched back into my life.

My head was spinning, but I had to get back in there. I stood up, squared my shoulders and walked back down the hall.

Grady was waiting again, like a faithful puppy. I wondered if he had his own life, or this was it. He barely nodded at me and I knocked and walked in again.

Jesse had taken off his shirt and was sitting on the edge of an exercise bench in the corner, lifting weights over his head, his arms raising up and down, his tight muscles rippling down his naked back, his biceps twitching and flexing and covered with a light sheen of sweat.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “You should start slow.”

“My arms aren’t fucked up. Besides, you walked out without telling me what to do. I don’t like just sitting around and wasting time. Time is money, right?” he winked.

“Yeah, I guess,” I said, forcing my gaze away from his amazingly toned body. I’d seen pictures of it. He’d been photographed many times over the years and his body was probably plastered on many teenaged girl’s walls, but there was something different about seeing it in person. He was a perfect man, if you were only looking on the outside. His body was flawless, outside of the swollen and scared knee and bruises on his left side and thigh. Somehow, I didn’t see those though. I just saw the hard work he’d obviously put into developing his body into elite athletic form. It was breathtaking, and it took me a second to gather my wits about me before I could begin speaking again.

“So,” I began. My voice was shaking and it was beginning to piss me off. I was a grown woman acting like a virginal teenager. “We have a pool and hot tub down the hall. Water therapy is a big part of what we do here.”

“Does this mean I get to see you in a bikini?” he asked.

“What? No! I won’t be getting in.”

“That’s too bad, it was starting to sound fun,” he said.

“We’re not here to have fun, Jesse,” I replied, trying to sound as stern as possible.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because fun isn’t going to make you feel better!” I snapped.

“Wanna bet?” he asked, winking at me again. “Maybe we’re not talking about the same kind of fun.”

“You’ve got to stop,” I said, rolling my eyes.

got to stop being so uptight,” he insisted.

“Look, take these papers,” I shoved the aquatic intake therapy papers and instructions in his hand. “They’re waiting for you down the hall. Give the top one to the therapists and keep the rest. Those instructions show you all the exercises you need to run through while you’re in the pool. When you’re done, sit in the hot tub for fifteen minutes, no more, no less, got it?”

“And what are you going to do?” he asked.

Sit in my office and try not to lose my shit
, I thought to myself.

“I have another patient,” I lied. He was the only person I was seeing, since Larry had cleared my schedule so I could spend more time with Jesse. If he knew I was pawning him off on the aquatic therapy department, he’d be pissed I wasn’t at least supervising like I was supposed to be.

Fuck Larry. I’d asked him to take me off of this case, and if he insisted I work with Jesse, then I didn’t need to spend every minute with him. I couldn’t. I needed breaks, to catch my breath, to make sure those walls I’d erected stayed firmly in place.

I hated to admit it, but every second I spent with Jesse was slowly chipping away at my armor. I couldn’t let that happen.

“I’ll see you in a few hours,” I replied, leaving him alone in the room once more. I’d gotten through these last few moments without having to touch him, and without him touching me - a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

I’d never wished I was independently wealthy and didn’t need to work more than I did today.


fter two hours
in the water, I was ready to go home. The pain was more than I’d expected, and I was beginning to question my decision about not taking all of the pain killers. I’d grown increasingly irritated throughout the day, partly because of the pain, but also because no matter what I did, I couldn’t break through Maisey’s impenetrable wall. I tried to remind myself that I was just getting started, maybe she’d been hurt really badly or something, but it was still fucking with me.

I wasn’t used to be turned down.

My charms were foolproof. I knew how to work women, how to get exactly what I wanted out of any situation…

Maisey was proving to be impervious to my best efforts, and my attempt at getting under her skin only seemed to piss her off.

She’d shot me down over and over throughout the day, and of course instead of making me want to back off, it made try harder. If it was anyone else, I’d have moved on instantly. But this wasn’t just anyone.

It was Maisey and I couldn’t just walk away this time.

“Have dinner with me, Maisey,” I’d asked again before leaving for the day. She was in her office, having already said goodbye to me, but I’d found her office and stopped in before leaving. Grady waited outside the door as I hobbled in on my crutches. She was staring intently at her computer, a pair of reading glasses on her nose, making her look even more adorable. Her hair was up again today, and now with the glasses, my dirty librarian fantasies were kicking in hard.

“Nope,” she replied to my offer, not even looking at me.

“Maise,” I said, shortening her name the way I used to. “Come on. One dinner. Hell, just one drink.”

“I said no, Jesse,” she replied, finally pulling her eyes up to mine. “Thank you, but no. Have a good night.” She nodded, as if her word was the last one on the subject.

And I guess it was, because her refusal made me feel so bad that I really didn’t have anything else to say. I certainly wasn’t going to beg. That was right up there with apologizing on the list of things I didn’t do.

“See you tomorrow, Maise,” I said, turning around and leaving her alone in her office. I’d taken a few steps before I turned around again. She didn’t see that I was looking, but she was cradling her head in her hands and I felt a sharp pang of something I didn’t recognize.

Something serious had happened to Maisey. Something painful. I wasn’t quite sure how I fit in to that, but I knew it had something to do with me. Because every time she looked at me, it was as if she was seeing a ghost from her past that she didn’t want to see.

It didn’t make any sense. But whatever it was, I was determined to make her want me again.

y phone rang
as I was sitting out on the balcony of my penthouse, watching the orange sun set in the distance. When I saw it was Coach Fox, I answered it.

“Hey Will,” I answered.

“How’s the knee, Colorado?” he asked.

“Still sucks. Swollen, painful, and really fucking ugly. The bruises have turned a really gnarly combination of green and purple now.”

“Well, that car fucked you up pretty good. Have you tried walking on it without the crutches yet?”

“For about half a second, then I’m reminded what an awful idea that is.”

“Well, make sure you don’t miss any physical therapy appointments. We don’t have any time to waste. I don’t want to tell you what’ll happen if you aren’t ready by September.”

“Well, then don’t. I’ll be better,” I replied. Not getting better wasn’t a fucking option, and I wasn’t about to even talk about it as a possibility. I wasn’t about to let some snot-nosed texting kid sideswipe my entire career.

“I hope so, Colorado, we’re counting on you,” Will said.

“I won’t let you down, Coach,” I replied before hanging up.

Yeah, I’d get better in three months. Well enough to play at least. That was plenty of time. But for some reason, football wasn’t really the most important thing on my mind right now. The thought of only spending three months with Maisey didn’t seem like near enough time for me.

I might have failed today, but tomorrow is another day. I was determined to pull out all the stops, not letting up until I had Maisey exactly where I wanted her.

As I lay in bed alone later, I couldn’t help but think that where I wanted her was right there beside me, under me, on top of me, in my arms…

If my usual methods didn’t work, I’d just have to pull out the heavy artillery.

Either way, she was going to be mine.

At the very least, for one more night.


up the next morning thinking about secrets.

I’d always told Maddy that keeping secrets would only hurt the person keeping the secret. I’d told her that it was best to share things, get them off your chest, to keep the energy flowing freely inside of your heart.

Maybe it was some hippie bullshit, or maybe it was just my own guilt eating away at my scarred and battered conscience. But either way, I didn’t want her to turn out like me.

My secret was big. But it was mine. I’d held it close to my chest for so long, it had become a part of me. I’d never told a soul and I wasn’t about to start spilling things now.

But goddamn, did I ever feel the need for some relief.

Relief was out of the question, though.

It’s not like I could trust anyone with the truth.

It’s not like I could expect anyone to keep their mouth shut once they learned how big it was.

They’d be able to sell my secret to the highest bidder. They’d fall over themselves to ruin everything I’d built here.

I guess I could have sold it myself and ran away from it all, but the last thing I wanted to do was drag myself through the mud like that.

I hadn’t even told Eddie, my best friend in the whole damn world. As much as I loved Eddie, I knew how much he loved to gossip. He'd been an amazing friend, a wonderful kind of ‘uncle’ to Maddie, and brought a lot of much needed happiness and color to our lives.

By day, he was Eddie Rockwell, a loving gay man with a heart of gold, but at night, he turned into an entirely different person — Rockie Montaigne, the Queen of the Denver drag scene. He emcee’d drag shows at Charlie’s downtown every Friday and Sunday night and was very well-known and well-loved in the Denver community.

I’d met him a few years ago when I was still in school, doing my clinicals at another PT clinic. Eddie had fallen while dancing in a pair of stiletto’s and hurt his knee. I was assigned to him and a fast friendship formed. He and Maddy adored each other.

But still, I never told him my secret either.

My mouth remained firmly shut, my secret locked deep inside of me, never to see the light of day.

Everyone had something, right? Something they never told anyone? Something they took to the grave with them? I was no different.

At least that’s what I told myself so I could sleep at night.

Everyone had secrets. I wasn’t any different. It was perfectly normal to keep this to myself.

And if it wasn’t normal, then it was certainly
. Some things are best left unsaid, and my secret was one of those things.

And if I didn’t want to answer Jesse’s questions, I damn well didn’t have to. I didn’t have to tell him why I left. I didn’t have to tell him why I stood him up. Maybe I owed him an explanation, but he wasn’t about to get one.

At least not the

I’d been so lost in my own thoughts this morning, that I’d almost let Maddy out the door without her inhaler. That would have been a nightmare, because I would have been forced to leave work and come back home to pick it up and then drive it back to her school. Instead, I found myself chasing after the bus two blocks, frantically yelling and waving behind it like a lunatic until it had finally stopped and let me on.

I made my way to work afterwards, determined to clear my mind and not let myself get distracted any longer. I needed to stay clear-headed and keep my cool.

And I was doing so good, until Larry walked into my office after I’d only been there for five minutes and ruined everything.

“You’re going to want to take that coffee to go,” he said, gesturing to the steamy mug on my desk.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Your patient isn’t feeling well. He requested that you do an in-call treatment.”

“Which patient?” I asked, knowing exactly who he was talking about but hoping I was wrong.

“Colorado, of course. Your only patient.”

“For fuck’s sake, Larry!” I exclaimed. Yeah, I’m not supposed to complain, but this was too much.

“I don’t see the problem, Maisey. He doesn’t live far from here. I’ll pay for your gas and parking, if that’s your problem. Time and a half pay for having to leave the office.”

“That’s not it!”

“Well, then what?” he asked.

“If he’s not feeling well, then why do I have to go to his home to be exposed to whatever he has?”

“His leg injury isn’t contagious Maisey. He’s hurting too much to walk, but we both know he can’t afford to miss a day of therapy.”

“I can’t believe this,” I muttered, shaking my head and gathering my things. “What’s his address?”

“He lives in a penthouse at Spire,” he said.

“Of course he does,” I rolled my eyes. Spire is the most luxurious high-rise in Denver, of
he lives there.

“I gotta say, Maisey. I’m surprised you aren’t more excited about this. It’s a great opportunity for you. He could be a really great reference for you, and for the company. If we can get Mr. Colorado back on his feet, we might end up doing physical therapy for his entire team. We’re talking about a substantial increase in business, and don’t think I won’t remember who helped make that happen. We’re talking about a big raise for you… Plus, you get to hang out in his penthouse. I hear the view is amazing.”

“Lucky me,” I sneered, grabbing my coffee and walking out of my office.

Jesse had upped the game. I knew he wasn’t hurting too much to crutch his way in here. He was just using that as an excuse to get me all alone. He was still trying to wear me down.

But he had another thing coming if he thought he could do that.

I was strong. I was resilient. I’d gone this long without letting a man,
any man
, steer me off course. I wasn’t about to let some jock come in and ruin everything, no matter how he made me feel…

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