A Blast From the Not-So-Distant Past
That night, Orlando paced the living room while Chris watched, slightly worried.
“Ruining the hardwood is not going to work out your problems,” Chris told him.
Orlando looked at him. Johanna was at her apartment in Los Angeles with her cell phone off, giving him the cold shoulder. He wasn’t shocked that Johanna wasn’t talking to him, but it still troubled him. And Samantha and Gretchen! How could they?
“It wasn’t their fault, mate.”
Orlando looked at him. “What?!”
“You’re talking to yourself again. It’s not their fault, Orlando. You need to understand that.” He stood. “Look, I’ve been wanting to say this for nearly two weeks. You—”
Orlando raised a hand. “Save it. I already know what you’re going to say.” He sighed. “And you’re right, mate. I’ve been stupid.”
There was a long pause.
“Was it good?” Chris suddenly asked.
Orlando frowned at him. “Huh?”
“The sex, you idiot. Was it good?”
The tension in the room fled when they both laughed and Orlando affirmed it with a knowing look. Chris nodded and patted his shoulder as a firm knock sounded on the door. Orlando and Chris shared a look, and they strode to the door to hear chattering on the other side. Chris moved to open it but Orlando stopped him.
After a moment: “Christopher Parker—you had better open up the goddamn door! I know you and Orlando are in there!”
Then: “Geez, Sam, don’t be so mean! Can we please come in? We need to talk. We’re really really really sorry, Orlando, and we wanna know how we can make it up to you.”
“Oh, stop being so apologetic, Gretchen. The girl was a bitch.”
“Ugh, that is really wrong, Sam. We oughta just leave her out of this.”
“Damn right we should. I hope he sent that chick packing off to Glitterati Land.”
Orlando, looking mildly stern, opened the door to Samantha wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and a jade-green bandanna around her head, and Gretchen in her lime-green pjs. Gretchen looked sheepish. Samantha was insolent.
“Can we come in?” Gretchen asked.
Samantha ignored her and pushed past him. Gretchen sighed and followed as Samantha stalked into the living room. After Orlando closed the door, he and Chris joined them. Samantha stood with her arms crossed.
“You’re an idiot, Orlando Bloom,” Samantha declared. “I thought that I’d let you know.”
“Thanks for the news flash,” he said mildly. “But we have established that well enough. Now could you just leave me alone about it?”
“Perhaps,” Samantha responded. “That is, if you plan not to see that girl ever again.”
“Who are you? My mother?”
“Well, someone has to look after your health. Who knows what that girl has?!”
Gretchen stepped in between them before the snarling could start. “Alright. That’s enough.” Gretchen turned to Orlando. “She’s sorry. We both are. But we don’t want you to make a mistake. You’re our friend.”
“I know, and you’ve protected me well enough. Too much, I think. So now can you let me go?”
Gretchen tilted her head. “Orlando, we don’t do that to family.”
Orlando was touched, and became even more so when Samantha said, “You’re like the horny older English brother from another mother we never had.”
Gretchen reminded her that she herself had Eric, and Samantha told her to shut up; she was ruining the moment!
“Sorry,” Gretchen mumbled.
The phone rang, and Chris frowned. He picked it up and gave the customary greeting. When his face went slack, he turned to Orlando and told him it was for him. The cousins shared a glance.
“This is not good,” Samantha muttered. –
Orlando took the phone and went into the kitchen. Three pairs of eyes watched him.
“Who was that?” Gretchen asked.
“Who do you think?” Samantha snapped. “It’s probably that—that—”
“Samantha,” Gretchen scolded.
Samantha turned to Chris and grabbed him by the shirt. “That better not have been Johanna, Chris!”
Chris held up his palms. He didn’t want Samantha to kill him. “What am I supposed to do, Sam?” he demanded. “I can’t very well just batter the girl through the telephone.”
“You ought to. She needs to leave Orlando alone.”
“Orlando has the right to pick his own women,” Gretchen said, forcing Samantha from Chris.
“Damn right he does,” Chris agreed. “What he lacks is the brain capacity.”
Gretchen gave Samantha a look before she could comment upon Chris’s last statement. Samantha crossed her arms angrily over her chest as Orlando drifted from the kitchen sheepishly. They stared at him, waiting for him to speak, but his expression spoke volumes.
Samantha groaned. “Oh hell, Orlando! Don’t you realize—?”
Orlando raised a hand for silence and Samantha went quiet. He walked past them, heading for his bedroom. He had to think. That was all he could think. Think. The one word in his head.
“Orlando?” Gretchen’s voice broke through his reverie. He paused, but did not turn. She took a tentative step forward. “What happened?”
He turned his head slightly. “The unthinkable, love. The unthinkable.” And then he left before he could elaborate on what the unthinkable was. But Samantha was sure she knew.
Without anything but an angry snort, Samantha stormed toward Orlando’s bedroom, ready to give him an earful.
The door was closed, but Samantha stormed through in her abrasive way without knocking. Chris and Gretchen heard a soft crack, a muffled crash, then Samantha’s horrified gasp.
“Oh…Orlando…I’m so…” Samantha’s brows furrowed in forced consternation that was laced with fear. “For goodness sakes, get off the floor would you?”
After sharing a glance, Chris and Gretchen rushed to the scene, only to find Orlando trying to pick himself off of the floor, a hand to the back of his head. Gretchen’s eyes widened.
“Chris—go get some ice and put it in a towel,” Gretchen ordered. Chris sprinted away. “Sam, call Jess.” Without waiting for Samantha to say anything, she knelt next to Orlando, who was still in the process of picking himself off of the ground. Seeing that he was really hurt, Samantha dashed off for her cell phone.
“Orlando?” Gretchen prompted. She looked into his pale, expressionless face, green eyes wide. “Orlando, can you hear me?”
He didn’t answer, because his eyes had rolled to the back of his head to the quiet, unfathomable black.
* * *
When he awakened, Orlando was lying in a pristine hospital bed at Gracia Memorial, and Chris, Samantha, and Gretchen were nowhere to be found.
But Johanna was.
Johanna, clad in yeast-inducing jeans and a white baby tee, jumped up when Orlando drifted toward consciousness. She hovered at his side until he noticed her presence. It was clear that she wouldn’t move until that very thing happened.
He swallowed hard before speaking. “Johanna,” he said in a raspy voice.
She immediately went into worried girlfriend mode. “Oh Orlando!” she cried. “I was so worried about you!” As she fussed over him, something like annoyance fissured up from inside him. And disappointment.
She rambled on about hearing that he was in the hospital from a friend. (Apparently, Hell was still hot, because Samantha hadn’t had the grace or patience to call Johanna herself, and she must have bullied Chris and Gretchen into not doing that very thing.) After a comment about that “butch blonde” (yeah, that was Samantha to an outsider, alright), he found himself sighing and praying for patience.
There was the sound of a clearing throat at the door that made Johanna turn.
She was about as tall as he was, and he knew this even without standing. Her soft raven hair was pulled back into a severe French braid and underneath her clinically clean lab coat she wore medical scrubs. Even without her black librarian glasses, Orlando recognized the young doctor barely out of med school right away.
The smile that came to his face was small, but it was genuine. “Moira-Selene,” he said simply.
Dr. Moira-Selene Thomas reciprocated the smile, her eyes responding in kind. “Nice to see you awake, Orlando,” she returned. “How are you feeling? You still look a little out-of-focus.”
“He’s fine,” Johanna said abruptly. Moira-Selene tilted her head. “He’s so much better now that I’m here.” She grinned down at her lover, and Orlando felt the smile he’d given to Moira-Selene shifting into a grimace. Then she looked back at Moira-Selene, eyes stormy. “At least I’m here for him. Those people he calls friends—”
“Are coming to see him later,” Moira-Selene interrupted firmly. Orlando was astonished. Johanna was just infuriated. Ignoring Johanna, Moira-Selene addressed Orlando. “Sam, Chris, and Gretchen wanted to be here, but I insisted that they at least put a half-day in at work and such. Jen’s got a deal brewing so Sam’s on the phone, Gretchen’s prepping her beginners for a recital, and Chris can’t spare a day off as it is.” Her eyes warmed as if she were trying to reassure him. “They’ll be here.” She glanced at her watch. “I’m sure you wouldn’t mind some peace and quiet with the headache you’ve got.”
Orlando winced at the pounding. “You sure are right about that,” he agreed hoarsely.
Frowning a bit, Moira-Selene came closer to the bed. “Maybe it’s time I have a look at you.” She looked to Johanna. “Ms. Spencer? Do you mind?”
The expression on the debutante’s face indicated that she did indeed mind. “I need to be here for Orlando,” Johanna insisted staunchly. Orlando held back a sigh and closed his eyes for a moment. The throbbing at the back of his head that signaled the beginning of a tension headache increased.
Moira-Selene puckered her brow at the other woman, annoyance showing in her usually calm emerald green eyes. “I need to examine Mr. Bloom, Ms. Spencer.” Her right eyebrow arched in a way that indicated she would not be dissuaded. “Alone.”
Johanna glared at Moira-Selene and pointedly grabbed her purse. “I will see you later, Orlando.” She leaned over to kiss Orlando, but Moira-Selene stepped to her place before she could, and she nearly kissed Moira-Selene.
Moira-Selene’s other eyebrow arched. “I’m sorry, Ms. Spencer, but I have a boyfriend.”
Johanna huffed and flounced away. Orlando nearly laughed, but he knew the effort would hurt. Once she was sure Johanna was gone, Moira-Selene closed the door and came back to the bed. She took a pen light from her pocket and came in close enough to smell her powdery scent. Orlando blinked furiously after she was done checking his pupils.
“You’re certainly responding better than you were when they brought you in here,” Moira-Selene told him. She put the pen light and placed it in her breast pocket. “Gretchen was hysterical last night. Chris and Sam had to calm her down. You really had everyone worried.” The edges of her mouth quirked. “But you’re all better now. You just had to get that out of your system.”
“That,” Orlando began, shifting so that he was comfortable, “or a certain someone?”
Moira-Selene’s expression indicated that, while she had something to say on the subject, she didn’t think it was right of her to intrude. She just shrugged and pulled her stethoscope from her neck. She pulled Orlando’s gown down at the neck to listen to his heartbeat. After a few moments, she was satisfied with what she heard. She adjusted his collar and replaced the stethoscope.
“Your CAT scans were good,” Moira-Selene informed him. “The, uh, head injury didn’t cause that much damage. You just have a slight concussion, and Jessica wanted to keep you here overnight in case it turned out to be more serious. Just our luck, you have a hard head.” She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. The throbbing eased. “So you’ll live. But next time, make sure you stay away from Samantha and a swinging door, huh?”
“For you, Moira-Selene, I’ll try my damnedest,” Orlando assured her.
“Good.” There was a knock on the door, and Moira-Selene’s eyes startled to twinkle. Orlando knew that twinkle. She had a secret. Or a surprise. “Oh! That must be a visitor for you.” She turned around and raised her voice. “Come in!”
The door opened, and Orlando got a pleasant shock. –
She was shorter than her younger quadruplet sister, but that didn’t take away from her beauty or elegance. The curly mane that he himself had idly twined his fingers through was as long and lustrous as he remembered. She wore a dark teal smocked waist dress with sandals the same color. Brown earrings swung at her ears, complimenting the bracelet she wore on her wrist. When she grinned, happiness and something like lust punched through him.
“Claudia-Michelle,” he said simply as Moira-Selene moved away to allow her to come closer.
When Claudia-Michelle Thomas spoke, it was like the music she herself played. “I go away for twenty-six short months and I have to come back to find you in the hospital?” She shook her head slightly. “Orlando darling, you have to start taking better care of yourself.”
Orlando chuckled, and ignored the headache. “I think if I had help, I’d accomplish that task much better.”
Claudia-Michelle raised an eyebrow, and Moira-Selene rolled her eyes. “I’ll leave you two alone,” Moira-Selene said. “I’ll send a nurse in with your medication, Orlando.” She looked to her older sister. “And be good, Claud.”
“Hey. Being bad is Danie’s department. I’m just being…carefully mischievous.”
Moira-Selene fought another eyeroll and muttered something about euphemisms for sex. With that, she left Claudia-Michelle with Orlando, half-hoping that Johanna would return early. Oh, she was so evil sometimes.
After Moira-Selene left, Claudia-Michelle grinned down at Orlando. Claudia-Michelle’s easy smile reminded him of times—private times. He could tell that she herself was thinking of them. She shifted a hip onto the bed and sat there, staring at him, green eyes dancing. Claudia-Michelle placed a hand on his and he took it, watching those eyes go warm.
“Don’t even think about it,” Claudia-Michelle suddenly told him, and he found himself laughing a bit.
“Why do you automatically assume that I’m thinking about sex?” Orlando asked, amused. “I could have been thinking about the last time we saw each other. Or how glad I am to see you.”
“Which could both have to do with sex,” Claudia-Michelle pointed out. When he started to protest, she continued. “Aw come on. You know what happened between us. I’m surprised the whole family doesn’t know.”
“They don’t, Claudia,” Orlando reassured. “Chris knows, and Moira-Selene knows, but I don’t think anyone else does.”
Surprise flitted across Claudia-Michelle’s face. “You didn’t tell Gretchen?”
“Oh. Right. I can see myself telling Gretchen that I had an affair with her older sister. She would take that very well.”
“Well…” Claudia-Michelle considered that seriously. “I suppose you’re right. That would be extremely awkward.” She lifted a hand and brushed a lock of hair from his brow. His skin tingled in its wake. “But I’d wonder how she’d take it if we were dating?”
Orlando’s eyebrows lifted. “Dating? You mean, as in going out to dinner and eating. Not just going out just to have wild, sweaty sex.”
Claudia-Michelle laughed unabashedly. “Of course. You’re a damn phenomenon in bed, but I’d like to get to know you better than that outside of it.” While Orlando, amused by her phenomenon comment, searched for an answer to that, Claudia-Michelle placed a hand on his arm. “You don’t have to answer now. I was just…” She shrugged. “Acting on impulse. I know you…are seeing someone…”
Before his good sense could stop him, Orlando admitted, “Well, we’re not really serious.” Claudia-Michelle’s right eyebrow quirked. “But I’m sure they already told you that.”
“Actually,” Claudia-Michelle responded after a pause, “I could see it in your eyes. You’re like glass, Bloom.” She reached for her brown and turquoise purse and pulled out a card. On it were her name, her address, and phone numbers. Orlando looked from it to her in shock. “But think about it. Even if you just want to have a friendly lunch, that’s fine with me, too.”
“Is that an euphemism for gratuitous sex?” Orlando joked.
Claudia-Michelle was too used to him not to laugh. “No, silly. It means exactly what means, especially if you’re taken. You’re cute, but not enough to get into a fight over.”
Orlando pretended to be hurt. “Oh, Claudia love. How you bruise me so.”
“Bruise? Who me? Maybe a scratch or two…”
They both laughed easily, and did not feel uncomfortable at the silence that ensued afterwards. Claudia-Michelle clasped his hand again in her own and tilted her head slightly.
“I wish I could stay, but I have to look at furniture for my new apartment,” Claudia-Michelle told him.
New apartment? That had endless possibilities. “You’re moving to Gracia?”
“Oh yes. I figure it’s about time since everyone’s right here.” She exhaled heavily, thinking about the tedium of furniture shopping. “I wish I could put the chore off, but I have to go to New York to tie up some loose ends before I settle in here.” She peered into his eyes with her dancing green ones. “And when I get back, you’d better be in one piece.”
“Oh yeah, so you can take me apart again, right?”
“Yes,” Claudia-Michelle confirmed. “Brutally and torturously slow.”
Blinking away his wobbly vision, Orlando laughed nervously. “Quite a joker you are.”
Claudia-Michelle shook her head in amusement and said goodbye. She leaned in and planted her soft, irresistible mouth on his.
Unlike the time Samantha had kissed him, Orlando actually felt something. A stir of something, right at the gut. If he hadn’t been in a hospital bed, he probably would have committed an indecent act. But Claudia-Michelle moved away before that thought could bloom any further. She squeezed his hand again, and departed.
It was then, at the back of his mind that he realized that the Thomas quads all looked alike through squinted eyes. How eerie.
* * *
When the curly-haired beauty emerged from Orlando’s room a few moments later, Johanna Spencer glowered, and she watched her saunter to the bank of elevators. She moved to take care of business, but the elevator had already swallowed the young woman up. Eyes stormy, she looked up and saw Moira-Selene Thomas nearby, talking to a nurse. Seeing Johanna, Moira-Selene paused for a split second and met her stormy eyes.
Sheer amusement lied in Moira-Selene’s green orbs, affirming Johanna’s developing conviction that the Thomas sisters were depraved creatures.
Yes, wishes were awesome things, weren’t they?