Set for Love (not yet published) takes place in a city of my own imagination, somewhere up north. Bern Cortland is a South Mississippi boy in the harsh, frozen wastelands of the big city. He's taken a job as the technical director at an up and coming theatre there. Bern's had an on again/ off again relationship with one of the actresses in the show. The night before, they had a great time—until Paige got angry and threw him out. Today, she ripped into him when he was helping the director run lines. To calm down, he decides to go jogging in the park, only to get jumped by a mugger. One of the cops thinks Bern is the mugger and doesn't pay attention until his partner spots the fact that Bern is bleeding.
Bern looked down and realized for the first time that the palm of his hand was laid open nearly to the bone. There was a substantial puddle of blood by his shoe, dripping on his pants and work boots. Bern staggered, understanding why he was so tired.
Cop Two took a first aid kit out of his pack and bound up the wound with strips of gauze. Keeping the hand elevated, he helped Bern up the slope where an ambulance waited to transport his assailant. The paramedic seemed to think he needed a doctor too, so he rode with them to the hospital. He called Nancy from the waiting room.
"You're where? Oh, my God! This place is falling apart! Sterling's over there and Colt's with her. I'll tell Brent. He's gonna blow a gasket."
"I'm not gonna lose my job, am I? Nancy, I need this job, baby."
"I don't think so, sweetie. I'll have Ricky talk to him and calm him down. What happened between you and Paige?"
"You really wanna know? Or you want the pretty version?"
"Someone's gonna have to explain to Brent."
Bern sighed, resting his forehead on his good hand, his wounded one holding the phone.
"When I took her home last night—well. . . ." He didn't have to finish the statement.
"Oh, my God! You and the Ice Princess did it?" She tried to conceal a giggle but couldn't quite manage to. "Brent's gonna shit a ton of bricks. How did you get in that frigid bitch's panties?"
"Wasn't wearing any. I gotta go. They just called me back."
"Call if you need a ride."
"Thanks, babe. Will do."
The doctor examined his wound and had the nurse wash his hand well before giving him a shot to deaden it.
"Did a good job on this," he muttered. "What happened?"
"Got jumped by some bald, muscled guy in the park."
"Oh, so that's your handiwork? Nice!" He seemed very impressed. "Black belt?"
"Me or him?" Bern winced with the lidocaine infiltrated the tissue around his wound.
"Sorry about that. Shit stings like a bitch," the doctor said. "I'm Dr. Fellowes. I'll be your surgeon this morning."
"Thought you guys did the big stuff?"
"Surgery got canceled, so I'm bored. Besides, this is a really slick wound. What'd you do, grab the knife?"
"Grabbed his wrist, but I guess I miscalculated. The good news is if he hadn't cut me, I'd probably be in jail for assault. Cop wasn't too bright, thought I was the mugger even though I called them."
"You'd be one stupid mugger," Dr. Fellowes replied with a grin. "What do you study?"
"Really? Brutal. How many bones have you broken in training?"
"I do Aikido myself. I was doing kick boxing but got told I needed to learn discipline and how to slow down." He worked quickly, meticulously, taking tiny stitches inside Bern's hand, pulling the muscle and tissue back together.
"No sparring for at least two weeks," he said as he continued to work. "Be very careful with this and keep it dry. If we lose any stitches inside, it could affect mobility. It's gonna leave a hell of a scar."
"I don't care, as long as I can move it."
Bern watched in fascination as the doctor continued to work quickly, his fingers flashing rapidly in the bright light. Suddenly dizzy, Bern felt himself falling as the ceiling became the floor. The nurse caught him, laying him flat on the gurney.
"Was it something I said?" The doctor quipped and continued to stitch.
Bern woke up about twenty minutes later. An IV was attached to his arm and a bag of clear liquid dangled from a pole above his head. He tried to sit up, but it made him dizzy.
"Hold up," a calm male voice said from the corner. "Just lay there, Bern. Lemme tell the nurse you're awake."
It took a moment for Bern to process the fact that it was Colt. He'd completely forgotten that his friend was at the hospital. The curtain scooted aside again and the nurse came in.
"Feeling better? You looked pretty bad there. At least you didn't need a transfusion, but you lost a good bit of blood."
"I'm okay. I think. Make the damn room stop spinning, huh?"
She grinned down at him. She was pretty and blonde with green eyes and a nice smile. "It'll stop in a couple minutes, sweetie."
"Feels like a three day drunk on tequila."
"Done that, have you?"
"Yeah. More than's good for me."
"A nice boy like you?"
She raised a teasing eyebrow and Bern got the distinct impression she was flirting with him. Her name tag said her name was Norah.
"Norah, I'm bout's bad as they come. Well—I'm good—but I'm bad—"
She giggled, checking his pulse. She noted it on his chart and took his blood pressure.
"Your friend's gonna be fine when his pulse slows down. Trust a man to pass out, then make a pass at his nurse."
She grinned, shaking her head. Pretty blonde curls framed her heart shaped face. Bern felt his face warm.
"Man's gonna flirt," Colt answered. "It's in his nature. But it shows he's on the road to recovery."
"I'd have to be bout dead not to flirt with a beautiful woman."
Norah blushed as she wrote down his blood pressure. She took his temperature and checked the IV bag. It was more than half empty. She recorded his temperature and smiled down at him.
"I'll check with Dr. Fellowes, but I'd say you could go home pretty much any time. I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere."
"Baby, I'm not moving 'til I see your smiling face again."
Laughing, she walked out, pulling the curtain shut behind her.
"You must be feeling better," Colt said. "I never saw such a nauseating display of testosterone overload."
"I got jumped in the fucking park, hand got cut to the bone and damn cops didn't even notice I was bleeding until I had a six inch puddle by my foot. Thought I was the mugger!"
"You're shittin' me!"
"Swear ta God. Faggot came at me with a knife. Miscalculated. I got sliced when I took it from him."
"Gonna be able to work?"
"Yeah. Just have to be careful. No pushups—"
"So you get creative. You seeing Paige now?"
Bern shook his head, then regretted it as a wave of dizziness swept over him. "I saw her damn good last night, but almost immediately after, she started screaming—not in a good way—and told me to get out."
"You fu—uhh. . . ." He swallowed his words because Norah walked back in.
"Yeah," Bern replied to the unfinished question. "We fu— and she told me to get lost."
"Dude, you sure know how to pick em."
"I thought so. Oh for zero."