Even the nicest of guys can decide to cut loose at some point, especially if he's at college and a frat brother invites him to a party. Unfortunately, that can end quite badly. Luckily for Dante ap Owen, it doesn't -- until he keeps needing to piss every few minutes and he sees blood in his urine. Another stroke of luck for him is the substitute professor, also a medical doctor he’s been crushing on, who happens to be there when he passes out in class and pushes him to come to his clinic.
But Dante and his beloved, critically ill mother are under the control of his bitter uncle, who also provides health insurance. If his uncle finds out Dante is being treated for anything, let alone what Dante fears is an STD, he's ... Dante doesn't want to think about that. So he flees the clinic before he has to make a follow-up appointment.
The good doctor shows up at his uncle's farm when phone calls do nothing. And when Dante's uncle invites the doctor to dinner and serves a meal worthy of Medea, the doctor urges Dante and his mother to leave. But will they? And will Dante realize the doctor wants him as much as he wants the doctor?
“Dante?” Warm fingers gently slapped my cheek.
“Stop manhandling me,” I grumbled. I opened my eyes to look into startlingly blue eyes. “Dr. Autry?”
“Yes. Are you all right?” Those eyes actually appeared concerned, which was rather nice.
“I’m ... Uh ... I need to use the restroom.”
Fortunately, he didn’t say again. “Are you steady enough on your feet? Beekman, help Mr. ap Owen to the men’s room.”
How come all of a sudden I was Mr. ap Owen and not Dante?
“Because the entire class is watching,” he said softly, and I wanted to bang my head against the desk.
“I said that out loud, didn’t I?”
“I’m afraid so. Go on. I’ll talk to you after class.”
“Come on, ap Owen. I don’t have all day to babysit you.” What was Beekman pissed about?
I frowned at him. Come to think of it, he’d been at that party a week and a half ago -- that was his name -- and I vaguely remembered him being awfully chummy then.
I opened my mouth to tell him he’d better get checked out for STIs, since I was pretty sure he’d given me one, but then I decided to wait until I’d been tested.
I went into a stall, peed -- still bloody -- and I thought I’d pass out again, this time from the pain. I leaned against a wall and struggled to catch my breath.
Beekman was gone by the time I exited the stall. I washed my hands, blotted my face with a wet paper towel, and went down to the student lounge. I needed a sugar boost, and a chocolate bar from the vending machine should do the trick. No Galaxy bars, but they stocked Milk Ways, which were almost as good. I sank down onto one of the chairs, made myself comfortable, and tore the wrapper off the candy bar.
After about half an hour, I started to feel better, and wasn’t that just great? Now I had to worry about low blood sugar as well as having an STI. I left the lounge and headed back toward the lab to collect my messenger bag.
If there was a God, maybe Dr. Autry would be gone as well.
No such luck. He stood there wiping down the white board. Professor Ellison stood a few feet away, scowling and grumbling about Dr. Autry not having the credentials to teach Ellison’s class.
This was the last thing I wanted to get involved with. I eased toward where my jacket and messenger bag were, hoping I wouldn’t attract their attention.
“Mr. ap Owen.”
Bugger. No such luck. “Yes, Dr. Autry?”
“Are you feeling any better?”
“Not really.” Dammit. I’d meant to say “of course.”
“What’s this all about? Where were you, ap Owen?”
I sighed. “I was in the restroom, Professor.”
“He wasn’t well.”
I wished Dr. Autry hadn’t said that, but at least he hadn’t mentioned I’d passed out.
“Indeed?” Professor Ellison’s beady little eyes glittered. “Are you sure you want to continue taking this class? If dissecting a cat is too much for you ...” He smirked and let the words peter out. “I don’t want you teaching one of my classes again, Dr. Autry. I’ll be in touch. Oh, and I’ll just leave the door open.” He sauntered out, and as he’d said, he’d left the door open behind him.
“Supercilious, pusillanimous pussy-footer.”
I had no idea what Dr. Autry just called the professor, but I thought I fell a little in love with him. I eyed him cautiously. “Did I just say that out loud?”
I blew out a relieved breath. “Nothing.”
Dr. Autry observed me soberly. “As much as it pains me to agree with Professor Ellison about anything ... if dissecting the cat is enough to make you pass out, perhaps you’d better rethink taking this class.”
“It wasn’t Sylvester’s fault.”
“Sylvester? Who named the cat?”
I cleared my throat. “I did.”
“Interesting.” He swallowed a smile, and I wished I could have seen what his face looked like when a full-blown smile took possession of it.
“And as for passing out, it wasn’t due to skinning the cat. I live on a farm,” I explained. “I’ve seen hogs butchered.”
He raised an eyebrow.
“It’s very humane,” I hurried to assure him.
“Then what caused you to faint?” Dr. Autry asked.
I looked away.
“May I assume you’re not feeling well?”
“Suppose you come to my clinic after lunch? Dr. Nelson, my internist, is off on paternity leave, but I’ll see you.”
“I assure you I have excellent qualifications.”
“I didn’t mean -- you’re a cardiologist. There’s nothing wrong with my heart.”