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Authors: Lauren Blakely

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7

F
rom the pages
of Josie's Recipe Book

Air-Popped Popcorn for Nights Hanging Out on the Couch

I
ngredients

1/4 cup unpopped corn kernels

One popcorn popper

D
irections

  1. Place the kernels in the popcorn popper.
  2. Put the top on.
  3. Stick that baby in the microwave.
  4. This is the toughest part. Gather close. Wait for it . . . hit the popcorn button on the microwave. Watch it. When the microwave dings, voila!

S
erving suggestion
: Dump the popped corn into a bowl, sprinkle with a little salt, grate a small bit of parmesan cheese, and prepare to enjoy the hell out of a snack as you curl up on the couch and watch TV.

S
pecial instructions
: Resist placing your feet on Chase's legs. Refrain from snuggling up next to him. Keep your hands out of that hair. That golden brown, slightly wavy, looks-so-damn-soft hair. You are friends, and you like hanging out with him. It's that simple, and don't presume that friendship means you get the chance to touch his hair. Even though you really, really,
really
want to touch his hair.

8

S
ix things
I've learned about women from living with one. . .

O
ne

T
hey use
a lot of toilet paper.

Okay, hold on. I don't mean anything untoward. What I mean is this—it's like an epic fiesta of tissue in the bathroom.

“Can you pick up TP on your way home?” Josie asks on the phone one evening as I'm leaving the hospital after an insane day of sprains and broken bones. “We're almost out.”

“There's half a roll,” I say, because that's good for three days, right?

Nope.

I'm wrong.

“Chase,” she chides as I head down the street. “That'll be gone in a couple of hours.”

And I know why. The chick loves toilet paper. She's like one of those cat memes, where the pussycat's paws are wrapped around the roll, and she's gleefully tugging it off the holder. Josie uses it for everything.

She uses it to take off her makeup. She uses it to clean up water on the bathroom sink. She uses it to
dust
. Yup, she wads up a chunk of TP and wipes down the shelves with it. She fucking unravels it with her little feline paws. She uses it when she blows her nose, which, incidentally, is kind of adorable since she makes a little squeak.

I pop into the drugstore and grab some TP. I get her favorite kind. Because it makes her happy.

T
wo

H
air
.

It's pretty much everywhere. I find brown strands on the couch. I discover pink strands in the sink. And, truth be told, I find Josie's hair in my own hair. Shhh. Don't tell her but . . . I use her hairbrush. I don't know why, but girls' brushes are evidently way better than combs. They're just really fucking awesome.

T
hree

J
osie really likes
it when I perform manly tasks. I like it when she likes it when I do manly tasks. Sorry if that makes me not PC or whatever. I'm sure I should be defying stereotypical gender roles and knitting her a scarf or planting flowers, but I won't lie—I vastly prefer when she asks me to lift shit. A few days ago, she wanted to move the coffee table. I happily obliged, and I enjoyed the fact that she checked out my arms when I carried it. The other night, she asked me to open a pickle jar. I strutted into the kitchen, flexed my arms, and made a big show of it.

“Peacock,” she muttered.

I wiggled my eyebrows. “It's really hard to sound like you're insulting me when you say that word
.”

She rolled her eyes. “Ding dong.”

I shrugged. “Again, not insulted.”

“Pickle-jar-opening show-off.”

I tapped her nose. “Bingo.”

“You're insulted now?” She pumped a fist. “Excellent.”

I frowned. “You're trying to insult me. I'm so sad,” I said, then I reached into the jar and ate a pickle.

She patted my belly. “Pregnant?”

I shuddered. “Horrors.”

“Oh, please. Like that's the worst thing in the world.”

I gave her a sharp stare. “It kind of would be.”

I'd rather be firing the trigger on the baby, not carrying it.

Like I said, I prefer manly tasks.

F
our

A
fter a long day
at the hospital, which pretty much describes every day at Mercy, it's nice to have someone to come home to. And I'm not just saying that because Josie makes absolutely killer air-popped popcorn.

But she does. This popcorn is delicious, and we munch on it all the way through a binge fest of
Ballers
,
Vice Principals
, and
Veep
on HBO. When we reach the end, I rattle the bowl then pretend to hunt for more, sniffing the inside of it.

“You're like a dog,” she says. “The dog who licks his food dish when he finishes just in case there's a nugget he missed.”

I drop my face into the red bowl and lick.

She grabs it from me and sets it on the coffee table. “I'm cutting you off.” She puts her feet on the coffee table. Then she shifts a little and moves them onto me.

I stare at her feet. Her toenails are painted sapphire blue. Her feet are little and slender. My eyes land on the top of her foot, and they nearly pop out of my head when I spy the bounty. “You have really beautiful veins in your feet.”

She gives me the biggest side-eye glare in the world. “What?”

I stretch forward, grab her foot, and hold it up. “Look at this. It's fucking beautiful,” I say, running my finger along the top. The vein there is thick and blue. “I could draw so much blood from here.”

She blinks. “Are you a vampire?”

“No. I'm just an aficionado of all the systems in the body. You could give blood from your fucking foot.” I yank it toward my mouth.

She squeals, wriggling as I pretend to gnaw on her arch. “You're crazy.”

I let go, dropping it across my thigh. “What other glorious life-giving veins are you hiding? Let me see your arms.”

“Is this some kind of doctor porn?”

I nod, and my eyes are surely sparkling. “You have the cupcake tin and icing smoother. Hell, I saw the way you eyed that rolling pin, too. You had your fun. Let me have mine.”

“Fine.” She shrugs off a little flimsy sweater and sticks out her arm.

I wrap my hand around her wrist and roam my eyes up and down her arm. “This,” I say, tapping a vein in her forearm. “You could save countries with this limb.”

“Are you really serious?”

“Yes. This is a world-class vein, Josie. This is like a diamond mine. Man, if I didn't already think you were the cat's meow, just seeing your veins would seal the deal. Please tell me you're a blood donor.”

She nods. “Of course. Want to take mine some time?”

I draw a sharp breath and close my eyes. “Don't get me excited.”

When I open my eyes, she kicks me in the belly. “You're the worst.”

“I know.”

She sits up and asks, “What was the hardest part about being in Africa?”

“Besides missing pizza?”

She smiles. “Besides pizza, though I do understand that kind of empty ache.”

“Especially for a cheese pie with mushrooms.”

“Your favorite,” she says.

Absently, I rub my hand over her arm as I cycle back to the days in the Central African Republic. “Obviously, the suffering that we witnessed.”

“Of course,” she says, her tone serious. “That must have been so hard.”

“It was. But on a more personal level, since I think that's what you're asking, I would say it was missing friends,” I say with a sigh. “I missed Max, even though he's a pain, and Wyatt, too. I missed talking to friends who aren't in medicine. Just chatting about something other than work or doctor stuff.”

“You're a social person,” she says, her voice soft.

I nod. “Always have been. I loved your emails, though,” I say, remembering how Josie kept in touch with me. She consistently sent me updates, more than anyone else. “I'd get excited just seeing your name in my Gmail inbox.”

She smiles widely. “Really?”

I nod. “Yeah. It was an amazing experience being there, but I did miss home, and getting your notes was like receiving a little piece of New York every time you wrote. Like the time you told me about the woman who ordered a cake for herself from her dogs. How when she picked it up, she said, ‘My dogs ordered me a cake.'”

Josie laughs. “She was adorable. She was a writer. She'd just hit a bestseller list, and she said her dogs wanted to congratulate her with a cake.”

“What a lovable nut. And you totally went along with it.”

Josie juts up a shoulder. “Of course. I said, ‘Satchel and Lulu are so very proud of you. Here's the chocolate layer cake they ordered just for you.'”

“You probably made her day. Hell, that story alone made mine. What didn't help was the picture you sent along of the cake, you temptress,” I say, narrowing my eyes.

“You missed my cake. So sweet.”

A smile tugs at my lips. A wistful one. “I missed you, too.”

“You did?” she asks, her voice softer than usual, less teasing.

“Of course. You're one of my best friends.”

“Right. Totally. Same here.” She clears her throat. “Did you make new friends in Africa?”

“Definitely. I became friends with some of the other doctors and nurses.”

“Nurses?” A tightness threads through her voice. I haven't heard that tone before. For a flicker of a second it sounds almost like jealousy. But that's ridiculous. We've been friends for too long for things to change between us.

“A group of us became close. Camila, this hip nurse from Spain with crazy tattoos down her arms, was awesome.”

“A Spanish nurse? Covered in ink?” she asks, like this is the most difficult concept, or the most annoying.

“Yes. She was a riot. Always telling funny stories about the guys back home. And a doctor from England, George. And another doc from New Zealand. His name was Dominic, and he had the perfect deadpan sense of humor. That was our crew.”

“Did anyone have a vein fetish like you?”

I wiggle my eyebrows. “They would have if a specimen such as yourself had been around to provide doctor porn,” I say, and grab her arm again, running my finger along her vein as if I'm mesmerized.

For a brief second, her breath catches. The soft, barely-there hair on her arm stands on end. A strange sensation runs down my spine, as if I'm floating.

Which makes no sense, so I shove the idea away.

I look away from her arm and meet her green eyes. There's something different in them. Something I haven't seen before. I don't know what it is. I can't name it.

“I've been using your hairbrush,” I blurt out. I'm not entirely sure why I'm confessing right now, but here, with those wide eyes staring into mine, I can't help myself.

Her mouth lifts. “I know.”

“You don't mind?”

She leans forward and runs a hand through my hair. That strange feeling? It doubles. It triples. It multiples exponentially. “No. But I think you'd look nice with pink hair someday.”

F
ive

T
he smells
.

The other thing about living with a woman is that everything smells good. The bathroom is like an opium den of feminine delights. Most days, Josie wakes up before me and leaves right when I rise. When I enter the bathroom, it's like wandering into a lair of womanhood.

I stand and inhale.

Cherry scents and swirling aromas of vanilla sugar lotion and honeysuckle body wash linger in the air, like a fucking delicious dirty dream. Every morning, I'm enrobed in the scent of woman. It's sweet and seductive and intoxicating, and it smells like her.

In short, it's the fucking perfect environment for a shower jerk.

What? Do you blame me? I wake up with wood, and I'm alone under a hot stream. Of course I do some morning handiwork.

S
ix

T
hat's
the other thing about living with a woman that a man just has to battle. Something he can't avoid.

Morning wood.

Waking up with a hard-on is a fact of having a Y chromosome. Most of the time Josie's gone before I even leave for work, so who cares? But, every now and then she's not. Like on Saturday morning. Clad only in black boxer briefs, I pad out of my room, rubbing my eyes and yawning. There she is in the hallway wearing the most adorable little pair of pink boy shorts that do nothing to reduce the tent in my pants. In fact, the view of her soft thighs and the swell of her tits under that flimsy T-shirt material enhances the outline in my shorts to completely fucking obvious levels.

Because . . .

She's. Not. Wearing. A. Bra.

I'm not a religious man, but I'm seriously considering taking up praying. To her chest. I think this is what heaven looks like. Those globes. God help me, I'm seeing an angel in front of me.

“Morning, Chase.”

“Morning, Josie,” I say, my voice gravelly from the hour and the view.

Her eyes drift down, and she blinks. My gaze follows hers, and my dick is pointing at her, like a happy billboard.

She doesn't seem fazed.

I shrug. “I meant, it's a very good morning indeed.”

Josie smirks, and I can't help but notice she stares a little longer than one would expect. Can't say that bothers me.

But that night isn't so good at all when I learn the thing that sucks most about having a female roommate like Josie.

She's going on a date.