Doctor William Channing hated being on-call.
When he looked at himself in the mirror, he saw the bags underneath his brown eyes, the weariness in them. He was only twenty-eight, but he suddenly felt old. He was single, overworked, and sexually frustrated. Well, he didn’t think of the latter most of the time. He never got to think much outside of medical terms those days.
A tall guy with too-long black hair and brown eyes who would be skinny if it weren’t for his thirty-minute encounters with a set of dumbbells and continuous experience lifting people from stretchers, Will considered himself attractive, and he wasn’t going to dwell on the fact that most of the women he met entered his life through the ER. He had friends, but most of them were co-workers. He had no family to speak of, no mother to bug him about Christmas dinner, no sister or brother to tease him about being an overworked doctor. He was alone. And the crazy thing was, he didn’t seem to care. It seemed, sometimes, that his life started when he graduated from med school.
A couple of days worth of stubble roughed his jaw but he bypassed the razor. He didn’t have the time to go for it. He had to be at the hospital with barely enough time to brush his teeth. So he ran a toothbrush over his teeth—forgetting the toothpaste in his haste—donned a pair of jeans and a chocolate-colored sweater, and prepared to go to work.
As he stumbled out the door, he stumbled right into something furry. He swore under his breath as chirping barks filled the hallway and furry feet planted themselves on his Levis.
“Damn random dog,” he muttered under his breath as he tried to lock his door and keep the dog at bay. When the dog raised up on its hind legs with his paws on Will’s knees, he was a goner. He had to admit, it was a cute dog…
Suddenly a musical voice filled the hallway, causing Will to look up.
“Marshall! Marsh—here boy!”
A woman came out of 5-B, long, dark hair flowing over her slender shoulders. She wore a tank top and jeans, and her bare feet were tipped in red. She wore a navy baseball cap that hid her face.
When he looked up into the face underneath the baseball cap, her eyes came at him first, then her radiant smile. It was like a one-two punch in the gut that suddenly made him forget about going to work. Well, at least for the moment.
“Um, hi,” he managed.
She bent down and picked up the fluffy dog and smiled apologetically at him. She had a wonderful smile.
“Hi. I’m sorry about my dog,” she told him. “He gets a little over excited when it’s time for the morning walk.” She shifted him as he took a swipe at her face with his little pink tongue and had to admonish him affectionately. “I’m Amanda, by the way. I just moved into 5-B.”
“Will Channing,” he introduced himself with a light shake of her hand. She had a nice hand, too. He caught himself before his tongue came hanging out of his mouth. “Welcome to the neighborhood.” When Marshall yipped, Will added, “And your dog, too.”
“Thanks,” Amanda said, and flashed her smile again. “Well, it was nice meeting you. I have to find my shoes so I can take Marshall out. We’ll probably see each other again.”
“Oh, absolutely,” Will guaranteed. And hoped that his job wouldn’t impede his sex life once again. Somewhere he cursed himself for thinking in such adolescent terms.
* * *
Later on that night, Amanda sat with Marshall in her lap and explained her encounter with William Channing with a new friend.
Miyori Arashi was the first person she had met upon moving into the apartment complex a couple of months ago. He had helped her with her new couch and had even refrained from hitting on her, which had gained him major points at the time. They hung out every once in a while, chilling with a couple of beers. He would disappear for a couple of days then, without warning, come and knock on her door bearing some kind of gift. He’d explained that he was a print model for an agency nearby and he was in high demand at the moment. The last time he came back with a dress from the hottest boutique in Florence which was still hanging up in her closet waiting to be worn.
“I’ve seen him around from time to time,” said Miyori when Amanda was gone gushing about the guy. He sat on her couch nursing a beer and looking casually cool in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. It was a well-deserved, well-spent holiday of sorts for him away from cameras, flashing lights, and makeup. He hated the makeup the most. It compromised his manhood.
Amanda’s voice brought him back to earth. “Does he work a lot?”
Miyori took a swig of beer then spoke. “It seems like. He doesn’t have many visitors except for doctor friends.” He caught the look in Amanda’s eyes. “And no, there haven’t been any women sneaking out in the morning if you were wondering, and I know you were.”
Amanda, while pulling her long hair up, frowned a bit. “Then does that mean he’s gay?”
Miyori tried not to laugh at the hopelessness in her tone, and choked with the effort. Marshall barked in response.
“Gee, thanks for lifting my self-confidence,” Amanda muttered. “You’re supposed to say, ‘Oh, no Amanda, of course he’s not gay. He’s just…a workaholic.’”
Miyori just blinked at her. When she threw the pillow at him, he finally succumbed to his laughter.
“Alright, alright.” Miyori held up his hands to ward off any more blows. “I don’t think he’s gay. Really I don’t.” He paused, examining her. “Do you really want to join in the dating game, Amanda?”
Amanda shrugged and pulled her feet up under her. She had told Miyori an abbreviated version of her predicament so he knew all about her memory loss. Naturally, he was a bit concerned. “I just want to see what the possibilities are. He seems like a nice guy.” She took a sip of beer and tilted her head, recalling the image of Will Channing in her head. “With nice, black hair and…sexy…hazel-green eyes…”
Miyori shifted nervously. He didn’t mind seeing an excited female every now and again, but she was a friend, it made it quite awkward watching her. “Dammit, Amanda—I’m not gonna sit here and watch you as you have an orgasm or something over the color of this guy’s eyes.”
She threw the other throw pillow at him but was laughing hysterically during the wobbly pitch. Marshall, a little perturbed by the noise, started to bark.
“I am not having an orgasm over Will’s eyes,” Amanda insisted. “Or something.”
“Someday you will,” Miyori predicted.
Amanda narrowed her eyes at him. “You’d better be lucky there aren’t any sharp, pointy objects around for me to throw at your head.”
Before Miyori could come back with a retort, there was a loud knock on the door. Amanda and Miyori frowned at each other, then Amanda rose to answer it, leaving Marshall to play with Miyori.
She was tall and svelte, perhaps a little on the too-slim side, but that was a matter of opinion. She had long black hair and brown eyes. The first thing that Amanda noticed about her face was that she had the most perfect lips. As a woman, she coveted them—well, somewhat. As Amanda, she figured that she was better off with her own. She wore jeans with holes in them and a black tank top that showed off toned arms and a tattoo that dubbed her The Magnificent. She smelled of cigarette smoke, spearmint, and gingerlily. She had a black guitar case on her back and a set of fingernails chewed down to the quick.
“Um hello,” Amanda greeted her. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah—is Miyori here?” She had an insouciant accent that revealed that she wasn’t American. “I’m looking for him.” When Amanda opened her mouth to speak, she added, “The name’s Maggie. And you must be the new girl in the building.”
“Yeah, I’m Amanda,” Amanda told her as Miyori came up with the dog. “Nice to meet you, Maggie.”
Maggie gave her a nod, and then turned to Miyori. “If you don’t hurry up, you’re going to be late. You promised you’d be there to watch—”
Miyori gave a long-suffering sigh, and then gave the dog back to Amanda. “She’s right. Promises are promises.” Then he looked at Amanda, an idea brimming in his brain. “If you’re up to join me, Amanda, I’ll be happy to ask Mrs. Wade in 9-B to watch Marshall. She adores dogs.”
As if understanding the possibility that he could be left without Amanda, Marshall whined a bit. Amanda clucked her tongue at the dog and reassured him that Mommy would leave him in good hands. She felt sad that she was leaving the dog that she had come to think of as a small child, but she also felt happy that she was going out for once.
“Smashing,” Maggie remarked with an ironic smile. “Perhaps we could go now?”