“Dr. Oliver!” Luke exclaimed, his face flushed and his eyes wide. “You—you just kissed me. On the lips.”
Reid smiled and reached out to gently knock his fist against Luke’s head. “So there is something in there. That’s a relief.”
Luke just stared at him, his mouth hanging open.
Reid tried to shift his focus away from Luke’s pouty mouth and his cherry lips and . . . Reid cleared his throat. “Why so surprised, Mr. Snyder? You’re the one who said we had to seal the deal with a kiss, no? And it’s all for a good cause, right?”
The red blush covering Luke’s face darkened. “Um, well, yes, but I didn’t expect you to do that.”
“I’m unique,” Reid said with a wink. “And you wanted a kiss so I gave you a kiss. What’s the problem?”
Luke finally closed his mouth and bit his bottom lip, looking around, clearly unsure as to what to do next. As much as Reid liked antagonizing Luke Snyder and watching him squirm, in that moment, he found himself wanting to ease Luke’s embarrassment (and possibly his own—Reid hadn’t imagined the looks and laughs they’d been sharing lately, had he?).
“So,” Reid said, waving his credit card receipt in front of Luke’s face, “seeing as I’m always busy saving lives and don’t have time for things like this—”
“I knew it,” Luke muttered, shaking his head.
Reid looked confusedly at him.
Luke stepped closer to Reid. “You didn’t really want to win me, did you? And now you’re backing out. Why’d you do it, Doctor? So you can give me a taste of my own medicine? Make me see how it feels to be bought like I tried to buy you, is that it?” Luke’s face was red once more.
Reid smirked, leaning closer to Luke until their faces were only inches apart. “As clever as that is, Mr. Snyder—and believe me, it’s something I would’ve thought to do a few weeks ago—I was simply going to say that since I don’t have too much time for things like dinners and dates, I’d like to invite you to join me for lunch instead.”
Luke’s face softened. “A lunch date?”
Reid rubbed the back of neck and looked down at his feet. “If you want to call it that.”
“But you just did—”
“Yes or no, Mr. Snyder?” Reid interrupted, still not looking at Luke.
“Yes,” Luke replied with a small smile. “That’s fine with me.”
Reid’s gaze lingered on Luke for a few seconds before he nodded. “Okay, then, tomorrow at the cafeteria, around twelve-thirty?”
Reid stared at him for a few more seconds before turning around and walking toward Katie at the other side of the room. He suddenly paused, though, and glanced over his shoulder at Luke. “If you want to back out, Mr. Snyder, I’ll understand. I’m sure I can argue for a refund.”
Luke chuckled and shook his head. “No, I’ll be there. It’s for a good cause, after all.”
Reid smiled and walked away.
Katie, in a fuchsia spandex bodysuit, pulled her hair into a ponytail and opened the door to Reid’s bedroom.
“Reid! What are you doing here?” she yelled.
Reid, in black slacks and nothing else, glanced around the room. “Uh, living?”
Katie sighed. “I thought you’d left for the hospital. You’re always gone by this time.”
Reid looked her up and down. “Yeah, and now I see why you wait ‘til I leave so you can parade around like Jane Fonda in her 80s heyday. Hot pink, Katie, really? Not even a real blonde can pull that color off.”
Katie playfully punched his arm.
“Did you want to borrow my leg warmers?”
“Just your yoga mat,” Katie said with a slight blush.
Reid lifted an eyebrow. “Yoga, huh? Since when?”
Katie shrugged. “I see how fit you are and the way you eat so there must some correlation there.” She looked at Reid. “Why aren’t you dressed yet?”
Reid walked to the open closet and studied his clothes. “I need a nice—comfortable—shirt to wear.”
“Since when do you dress up for work? Are you operating on the mayor?”
“No surgeries today. I just think I wear my maroon shirt too much so maybe it’s time for a change,” Reid said, pulling out a navy button-down shirt.
Katie leaned against the closet door and pointed to the shirt in Reid’s hand. “That’s nice.”
“It brightens your eyes.”
“Such a girl thing to say,” Reid said with a smirk.
Katie’s eyes widened. “Wait a minute. Does this dressing-up bit have anything to do with your date with Luke?”
“It’s not a date,” Reid said, putting the shirt.
“Actually, it is, Reid. That was the point of the auction,” Katie said, grinning. “You certainly weren’t bidding for his cleaning services.”
“It’s for a good cause.”
“And it’s a date.”
Reid buttoned the shirt. “Does this look okay?”
Katie straightened his collar. “You look very handsome. I’m sure Luke will think so too.”
“I don’t care what he thinks.”
Katie laughed. “I didn’t think world-famous guys like you got nervous. Where are you going, by the way?”
“We’re just having lunch in the hospital cafeteria,” Reid replied, handing Katie his yoga mat and leading her out of his bedroom.
“What? Reid, you can’t go there on your first date. You should take him to the ritzy Italian restaurant next to the Lakeview; it’s very romantic and—”
Reid, glancing at his watch, cut her off. “Sorry, blondie, gotta go. I’m late.”
Reid bounded out of the first-floor elevator and sprinted down the hallway to the nearest men’s room. He splashed some water on his face and inhaled and exhaled a few times as he gripped the sink. “You can do this,” he whispered to himself. “He’s no one special. He’s just . . .”
Reid shut his eyes and opened them, straightening his shirt before exiting. Inside the spacious cafeteria, he grabbed a tray and lined up to select his food, looking around for Luke. He spotted him at a table in the center. Luke looked at his watch and raked a hand through his hair, his frustration evident. Oh, please, I’m not that late, Reid thought.
Balancing two large plates, a water bottle and a soda can on his tray, Reid sat down in front of Luke and smiled at him. “Mr. Snyder.”
“The last consultation ran a little long, but on behalf of the patient with the brain tumor who kept me overtime with questions about his health and chances of survival, I apologize for my tardiness,” Reid said, taking a sip of water. He eyed Luke’s plate of fries and pointed at it. “Are you going to eat all that?”
“Yes,” Luke said curtly, pulling the plate closer to him.
Reid took a huge bite of his burger.
Luke stared at Reid’s chewing for longer than he intended before clearing his throat. “So . . . how was your morning?”
“Oh, no, we’re not going to do that.”
“I don’t do small talk,” Reid replied in between chewing.
“How else are we supposed to get to know each other?” Luke asked, becoming increasingly annoyed as he spoke. “Or do you just want to sit here and stuff our faces without talking?”
“Works for me,” Reid said, finishing the burger and digging into his ravioli.
Luke sighed and looked down at his own plate. “Fifty more minutes,” he muttered.
Reid swallowed. The “date” was not going as he’d hoped. “Okay, look, we can talk, but can it be about something more interesting than my morning?”
“Like what?” Luke asked loudly enough that some doctors and nurses a few tables away looked over at them.
The blush from the previous night crept over Luke’s face again. Luke scratched the back of his ear and leaned forward slightly. “What do you want to know?”
A loud beeping suddenly rang out. “Oh, crap,” Reid uttered as he pulled out his beeper.
“Yeah,” Reid replied, looking apologetically at Luke. “I have to go.” Reid stood.
“Dr. Oliver,” Luke said quickly, standing up as well. “Um, if you want this to count as the date, you can. I won’t say anything if you won’t.”
“Nice try, Mr. Snyder, but like I told you last night, I plan to collect. And get my money’s worth, too, so how about dinner tonight?”
“I thought you didn’t have time for things like dinners.”
Reid looked Luke up and down. “I’ll make an exception in your case.”
Luke smiled shyly and nodded. “Okay.”
Reid grinned. He’d thoroughly enjoyed upsetting Luke in the past, but now Reid had to admit that he was really beginning to like putting a smile on Luke’s face. “I’ll text you.” He grabbed a handful of Luke’s fries and stuffed them in his mouth.
Luke laughed and shooed him away. “Go.”
Luke, in tan slacks and jacket with a white shirt underneath, stood beside the small, round table where Reid sat. He grinned mischievously. “I wanted you to know what it felt like.”
Reid couldn’t help but grin back. “Payback? This is going to be interesting.”
Luke sat across from Reid and glanced around the room. “This is a nice place. Cozy. Romantic.”
Reid shook his head and scanned the menu. “Do you want share a bottle of merlot or brandy? Unless you prefer white wine?”
“I don’t drink.”
“Come on, it’s just wine. It’s not like I’m trying to get you drunk or anything,” Reid said, looking over his menu at Luke with his usual smirk.
“I don’t drink,” Luke said firmly, leaning forward on the table to emphasize his point.
Reid stared for a few seconds before understanding. “Oh.” He set the menu down. “Look, I’m going to have one glass of wine, but if it makes you uncomfortable in any way, let me know.”
Luke smiled and shook his head. “Go ahead, really, it’s fine.”
The waiter took their orders and left Luke and Reid looking at each other. Luke nervously began folding the edges of his napkin. Reid, meanwhile, tapped his fork against the tabletop in an effort to get his own hand to stop twitching. Finally, after about a minute of uncomfortable silence, Reid cleared his throat and straightened in his chair. “So, how was your day?”
Luke lifted an eyebrow in both surprise and amusement.
A very light red tint appeared on Reid’s face. “I’m learning.”
Luke smiled and visibly relaxed as his fingers stopped moving. “What do you want to know?”
Reid leaned forward. “What do you want me to know?”
Luke shook his head. “Ask me a question, anything.”
Reid contemplated for a while before asking, “What’s the deal with you and Noah?”
“Seriously, Reid, you want to ask me about my ex on our date?”
“I just don’t get it,” Reid said, rubbing his eyes, “but fine. What’s your favorite color?”
“Blue,” Luke answered quickly. “Dark blue, like that shirt you’re wearing. It brightens your eyes.”
Reid rolled his eyes.
Luke laughed. “My turn. What made you decide to be a doctor?”
“I wanted to be rich and famous, and I am. Next.”
“Oh, come on, there has to be more than that.”
Reid shrugged. “It’s something not everyone can do, and I can, and if it helps save people’s lives, then I’m really not that bad a guy, am I?”
“You’re not,” Luke said quietly, looking straight into Reid’s eyes. Reid stared back.
“So, uh, are you ever going to move out of Mommy’s house?” Reid asked.
“I have before, but my brother and sisters need me around sometimes, especially since my parents aren’t exactly model parents or good at long-lasting marriages,” Luke said with a grin.
“I can see that.”
“I like being there for them in case they need anything,” Luke continued.
“They’re not your responsibility,” Reid said.
“But they’re my family, and I love them.”
The food arrived, and Reid looked up at Luke as he cut his steak. “Do you have another question for me?”
Luke swallowed a piece of lasagna. “Do you miss Dallas?” he asked, wiping his mouth.
Reid chewed slowly as he contemplated the question. Finally, he shook his head. “Not really. I always thought of myself as an adapter, as in I can—and have been able to—adapt to any new city, town, hospital. I’m a loner, too, so I just pick up and move on; I leave nothing behind. As long as I’m happy, I’m fine wherever I land.”
“Are you happy here in Oakdale?”
“Ask me at the end of the date, and I’ll let you know.”
Luke blushed, his dimples on full display. He looked down and concentrated on his food.
Reid wanted to reach out and tilt Luke’s chin up. He wanted to bask in the beam of light emanating from Luke’s face. Instead, though, he drank the rest of his wine and sat back. “What about you? Are you happy, Mr. Snyder?”
“You know, you can call me Luke.”
“Are you happy?” Reid repeated.
“Yeah, I guess I am,” Luke replied, shrugging nonchalantly.
“Even after everything that happened with Noah?”
Luke nodded somewhat hesitantly.
“From what I saw, you were miserable with Noah then and you’re miserable without him now. What I don’t understand is why you think you need him to make you feel anything.”
“He was jerking you around after the accident, and probably before then, and you let him because you felt guilty, responsible, for what happened to him even though a part of you—a very small part—knows Noah’s got no one to blame but himself for his idiotic actions,” Reid spat out. “And I think you want to let him go—you’re ready—but you still feel obligated to him.”
“He’s still blind.”
“But he’s not yours, not anymore.”
Luke put his face in his hands, elbows on the table, and sighed. Reid pointed to Luke’s plate. “You finished?” Luke looked curiously at Reid as Reid stood up. “Let’s go.”
Outside the restaurant, Reid took out his car keys as he and Luke walked to their respective cars in the parking lot. “Do you want to come with me in my car or follow me in yours?”
Luke stopped walking, his brows furrowed. “For what?”
Reid stopped too and faced Luke, a sly smile on his face. “To perform the rest of your services.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I bid on and won your company for a day.”
“Right, and I accompanied you to dinner,” Luke explained.
“Ah, but the day’s not over yet, Mr. Snyder,” Reid said, inching closer to Luke until Luke’s back hit the driver’s side of his car.
“I’m not going to sleep with you!”
“But I won you.”
“For a date, not sex.”
Reid grinned. “But it’s for a good cause.”
Luke rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. “And here I was just thinking you weren’t a complete ass.”
Reid flinched and backed up. “You’ve been flirting with me all night, Mr. Snyder.”
“As were you, and it’s Luke,” Luke loudly exclaimed as he stood up straight and glared at Reid.
“And you’ve been flirting with me for a while now because even though you’re still hung up Noah, you want, and crave, something else, someone else.”
Luke laughed coldly. “You don’t know anything about me.”
“I bet I do,” Reid answered, stepping closer to Luke once more. “Like the reason you auctioned yourself in the first place.”
Luke swallowed. “It’s for a good cause.”
Reid laughed. “So you offered yourself up to only three potential bidders: your blind ex, whom you really do want to be free of, the guy from the Lakeview who’s twice your age, and the doctor you possibly hate?”
“I didn’t know you were gonna be there.”
“Yes, you did. Katie had talked to you about it. And nowadays, where there’s a Katie, there’s a Reid. You wanted me to win you so you wouldn’t have to make the first move. Well, now I’m making the second move and the third.”
“You just want to get laid,” Luke said with a snort.
“Maybe,” Reid admitted, “but maybe I also want to make you let go.” He touched Luke’s arm and gently squeezed. “Stop being so cautious about everything like your non-drinking and your siblings and Noah. Just think about yourself for once and what you want. Be happy, Luke.” There, he’d said it.
Luke ran both hands through his hair. “I’m still not going to sleep with you.”
“Can you at least suck my cock?”
Luke glared at him.
“Luke, not everything has to be so fucking important all the time. Sometimes sex is just sex.”
“Not to me, it isn’t, especially not when I really like someone,” Luke said angrily, releasing the words before he could stop them.
Reid stared at him. “You do?”
“Just like you like me,” Luke shot back. “I mean, why else bid on me, then?
“It’s for a good cause.”
“That’s bull. You could’ve made your first, second, and third moves some other crass way, but you were afraid I’d turn you down seeing as we didn’t have the friendliest relationship. But this way you could court me and let me get to know the real you.”
Luke chuckled. “You’re not. But then you got scared of how much I was getting to know about you so you went back to being a jerk.”
“Wow, we really do know each other, don’t we?”
“And that’s as far as we’re getting to know each other now because I am still not sleeping with you.”
Reid smiled. “I didn’t expect you to.”
“Then why ask?”
“Worth a shot,” Reid replied. “Like with our kiss last night—I just went for it.” Reid stared at Luke. “So, what happens now?”
Luke glanced at his watch. “Five minutes until my services to you are fulfilled, so if want some more of my time, you have to request it; you can’t buy it.”
Reid smirked. “And how do I do that?”
“Do you want to do this again sometime?”
Luke pretended to think about it before nodding. “Sure.”
Reid leaned closer to Luke. “Now ask me again if I’m happy.”
Luke looked directly into Reid’s blue eyes. “Are you happy, Reid?”
Reid cupped the right side of Luke’s face with one hand. “I think I could be,” he said before ending the deal—and the night—with a kiss.