The Magic in Your Touch Ch. 03bywavyscribe©
Finding out someone wanted you dead was a lot easier when you had somebody to lean on. When Brandon called his office and told them he would be at home for the rest of the day, Nate almost wept with relief. In less than twenty-four hours, Brandon Nash had gone from perfect stranger to pillar of strength. Every time Nathan tried to sink into himself, Bran was there to pull him right back out.
Finally, after hours spent dealing with the insurance company and worrying about why he still hadn’t heard from Mike and Amy, Nate was ragged to the point of exhaustion. He made no protest when Brandon led him upstairs and tucked him into bed. He was asleep before Brandon could close the door behind him.
During his years at Atlanta Northern, Nate learned how to sleep through almost anything. Sleeping in the on-call room was something every doctor did at one time or another, especially a doctor in charge of critically ill newborns whose condition could take a turn for the worse at any given moment.
Despite all that conditioning, Nate came awake with a start the minute he felt cool fingertips fluttering across his forehead. He opened his eyes expecting to see Brandon, not a five-foot female with red hair and eyes the same color as the sheriff’s.
“Sorry, sweetie. I didn’t mean to wake you up. I was just checking to make sure you don’t have a fever. Brandon said you threw-up this morning.”
“Yes ma’am, I did, but—”
“I know. All that blood would have made me sick, too. I could just about throttle that son of mine for taking you into such a mess in the first place. And you with a head injury, too.”
“Yes, of course. Brandon—” She stopped for a minute. “Good grief. I forgot to even introduce myself. I’m Gale Nash, Brandon’s mother.”
Gale was a beauty. To look at her, no one would guess she was pushing sixty. She was short and trim, with a pixie’s face and the same dazzling smile as Brandon. Nate fell in love with her at once.
“Nice to meet you, ma’am. I’m—”
“Nathan Morris, but Brandon calls you Nate.”
“Yes, ma’am, he does.”
Gale sat down in the chair next to the bed. “So, sweetie, how are you holding up?”
“No offense, Nathan, but I’m a mother, and I can tell when one of my children is just telling me what I want to hear. You, my boy, are definitely not alright.”
Nate was about to argue when those damn tears started up. Before he knew it, he was being held and rocked against a warm breast that smelled of Channel Number Five and allspice. The comfort of the scents and the feel of being held by a mother, even if she wasn’t his own, was too much for Nate. He sobbed like a man whose heart was breaking.
When he was finally able to pull himself together, Gale handed him a tissue and waited patiently while he swabbed his eyes and blew his nose.
“Mrs. Nash, I am so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”
“First of all, you can call me Gale, or Mom, but not Mrs. Nash. Mrs. Nash is my mother-in-law, a lovely woman, but not exactly how I see myself yet. In twenty years, maybe. Second of all, you don’t have a thing in this world to be sorry for. I’m sure if your mother were here, she would do the same thing.”
Nate shook his head. “No, ma’am, she wouldn’t. My parents disowned me when they found out I was gay.”
Gale reached over and squeezed Nate’s hand. “In that case, I hope you’ll consider us your family. You already know Brandon and Keith. When you’re feeling better, I’ll introduce you to the whole clan. Right now, though, I want you to try and go back to sleep. Those dark circles under your eyes are just screaming for some rest. After your nap, come downstairs and eat some of the supper I brought for you and Brandon. I swear that boy doesn’t know how to fix anything that doesn’t come in a plastic tray.”
As she was leaving, Nate said, “Gale?”
“That’s what family is for, Nate.”
* * *
Gale Nash sat down at the kitchen table still fuming, madder than Brandon had seen her since the day he and his brothers killed one of Grandpa Taylor’s goats with a potato gun. Not even Sasha, who adored his mom, was brave enough to come into the kitchen with the agitated woman. She wisely chose to take a nap on her doggie bed.
“What kind of mother disowns a sweet boy like that just because he’s gay? I’d like to get that bitch alone in a room for about ten minutes, just enough time to put the fear of God into her.”
“Save it, Brandon. I’m not saying anything you haven’t heard before. A woman like that doesn’t deserve a son like Nathan.”
“From what Nate has told me, I think it was mostly his father’s decision. I believe his mother and brother probably just go along with whatever he says.”
Gale got up and started unpacking the food she’d brought. “Maybe so, but no man is worth abandoning your own child. Do you think for one minute I would let your father tell me I couldn’t see one of my babies?”
Brandon grinned. He came up behind his mom and gave her a squeeze. He might be over a foot taller than her, but all Gale’s children knew she was the boss.
“Not all mothers are like you, Mom.” He kissed her cheek and then went to the cupboard to get some plates. “By the way, have I told you lately how lucky I am to have a mom like you?”
“Yes, dear, but I never get tired of hearing it.” She put the last of the food on the counter and then turned to her son. “So, how come Nathan is sleeping in the guestroom instead of in your bed?”
Bran almost dropped the glassware he was holding. “Jesus, Mom, I just met the guy yesterday.”
“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. And don’t give me that bull. When have you ever let not knowing someone stop you from taking him to bed?”
“I admit, I have had my share of one night stands, but, for your information, I haven’t been with anybody since I ended it with Jeff. Besides, Nate isn’t like that, he’s—”
Bran paused before answering. “Yes.”
Gale turned her back to him, but not before he saw her smile. “That’s all I wanted to know.”
Bran closed the cabinet and went to stand in front of his mother. “You knew?”
“That you haven’t been with anyone since Jeff turned from a prince back into a frog? Of course I knew it. I also know that you didn’t have actual ‘sex’ with any of your one night stands. And I was pretty sure you were attracted to Nathan, but I wanted to be sure.”
“You are absolutely spooky, you know that? How do you know so much about my sex life?”
“I’ve told you before, Brandon. Mothers just know these things. Why do you think you and your brothers and sisters were never able to get away with anything?”
Brandon pulled a chair away from the table and straddled it. “So, Madam Psychic, tell me what you see when you look at Nate.”
Gale sat down across from her son. “I see a man who’s almost at the end of his rope, Bran. I don’t think he’s ever really dealt with loosing his family the way he did. I believe these attacks have only served to reopen a wound that never healed in the first place.” She reached over and put her hand on Brandon’s arm. “You did the right thing by calling me, son. That boy is going to need all the love and attention he can get if he’s going to make it through this.”
“He’ll make it.”
“You sound pretty sure of yourself.”
Bran shook his head. “Mama, do you remember what I was like when I came back here from Quantico?”
Gale shuddered. “As if I could ever forget. I’d heard about post traumatic stress disorder, but I’d never actually seen it up close before. Thank goodness you got over it.”
“Yes, but what I haven’t told you is that I still can’t sleep through the night without reliving that day all over again.”
The alarm on Gale’s face was the very reason Bran hadn’t told her about the dreams before now. “Honey, you aren’t still sick, are you?”
“Calm down, Mom. I’m fine. The psychologist they sent me to said I’ll probably always have those dreams, even though I’m psychologically sound again. After three years, I’ve learned to live with them. The thing is, last night, I didn’t have a single nightmare.” When he thought about the dreams he did have, he blushed.
Gale’s children didn’t call her old eagle eye for nothing. “Brandon Nash, did you by any chance dream about a certain eligible young doctor last night?” His silence was answer enough. “Well, it’s obvious he’s good for you. I hope you won’t do anything stupid like letting him slip away from you.”
“Don’t worry, Mom. Letting Nate go is the last thing on my mind. And until we catch the creep who’s after him, I plan to keep him here with me.”
“When were you planning on telling me about these plans you’ve made for my life?”
Bran and Gale looked up at the same time to see a rumpled Nate standing in the doorway. Brandon’s voice was hoarse when he said, “How long have you been standing there?”
“Just long enough to know that my living arrangements have changed.” He walked into the kitchen and Brandon got a good look at him.
His hair was matted down in spots and sticking straight out in others. His clothes were wrinkled from being slept in, and his face was drawn and haggard. Even looking like a zombie movie reject, Brandon’s body instantly went into overdrive the minute he saw him.
Gale got up and grabbed her purse. Brandon stood the minute his mother did and pulled her into a hug.
“Thanks for coming, Mom. Oh, and thanks for bringing dinner.”
“Anytime, honey.” She walked over and gave Nathan a warm hug and kiss. “You hang in there, sweetie. I’ll call and check on you tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Gale. For everything.”
She patted his cheek. “That’s what moms are for.” She kissed Brandon again before moving towards the door. “Call if you need me.” Blowing them both kisses, she left.
Brandon took Nate’s hand and led him towards the table. “Sit down while I dish up some of this stuff Mom brought.”
Nate took a seat, but said, “I’m not really hungry.”
“Nate, you haven’t had anything since that two-dollar ham sandwich at the hospital last night. You’ve got to eat something.”
Nate eyed him warily. “Why are you doing this?”
“This. Being so nice to me, bringing me to your house. Why would you go out of your way to help a stranger?”
“Number one: someone is after you. I take my responsibilities as sheriff seriously. I plan to do whatever it takes to keep you safe. In my opinion, you’ll be safer here than anywhere else. Even when Amy and Mike get back, they can’t offer you the protection I can. Number two: we aren’t strangers. Granted, we just met last night, but there’s a connection between us. I feel it, and I believe you do, too.”
Nate rubbed his hand across his face. “Yes, I feel it. I just don’t know what to do about it.”
Bran took the plastic wrap off of the green bean casserole. “I vote we don’t do anything about it. We should just relax and let things happen naturally.”
“Before we do, there’s something I need to tell you, just so you’ll understand why I’m so freaked out by all this.”
“Last night, when I told you that Rick and I never, well, you know?”
“Never made love?”
Damned if Bran didn’t get turned on just from watching Nate blush. Thankfully, Nathan didn’t seem to notice. He said, “Right. Well, after Rick broke up with me, I was too afraid of getting hurt to try again, so I didn’t.”
“I understand, but we’re just talking about relationships here, right? I mean, you’ve been out on dates and had a few flings, haven’t you?”
Brandon almost dropped the corn on the cob he was unwrapping. “Nate, are you telling me that you’re still a virgin?”
Nate nodded, but hung his head so Brandon wouldn’t see his embarrassment.
Brandon crossed the room in three long strides and pulled Nate up and into his arms. “You have nothing to be embarrassed about, baby. When you’re ready to make a commitment, you’ll be able to give your partner a gift that not many people, male or female, can offer. That’s something to be proud of.”
He felt Nate relax against him. “Then why do I feel like such a freak?”
“You sure don’t feel like a freak to me.”
Nate gave him a playful shove. “You have a one track mind, you know that?”
Bran kissed his cheek and went back to unwrapping the food. “So I’ve been told. If it makes you feel any better, I haven’t exactly lived like Casanova these last few years myself. I’m not a virgin by any means, but I’ve been celibate since I ended it with Jeff.”
“How long has that been?”
Brandon shrugged. “Four years, give or take a few months. Not that we had much of a sex life towards the end, anyway. He didn’t like the hours I worked and I didn’t like the fact that he fucked around behind my back. Not exactly a relationship made in heaven, was it?”
“No, but thank you for telling me about it. I don’t know why, but it does make me feel better.”
Brandon filled two plates full of green beans, corn, and his mother’s melt-in-your mouth pork roast. He set one of the plates in front of Nate and poured two glasses full of milk. “So, are you comfortable with staying here now that you know I’m not expecting you to ‘put out’ as part of your room and board?”
“As long as you’re sure you don’t mind having me here, then I’m grateful for the protection.” His voice dropped a little. “And for the company.”
Brandon sat down at the table and said grace. As they ate, he watched Nate from the corner of his eye. Conversation was limited, but Bran honestly couldn’t remember ever having enjoyed a meal more.
* * *
Nate looked down at the file in his hand. It was his and Amy’s first day back at work in over a week, and the place was swamped. In a way, he was grateful. As long as Amy was occupied with patients, she wouldn’t have time to hover over him. Between Gale’s calls and visits and Amy’s fussing, Nate was being mothered to death.
When she and Mike got down to Atlanta and found his aunt not only healthy and whole but off visiting relatives in Savannah, Amy immediately connected the phony call to Nate’s attack. She and Mike spent the whole night at the airport trying to catch the next flight back to Chicago. She went first to Nate’s apartment, freaking out when she saw the swarm of deputies gathering evidence from the ransacked townhouse. After going to the office and finding much the same thing, she was ready to file a missing person’s report on him. Thankfully, Cindy tracked her down and told her he was with Brandon.
He was always with Brandon. If he wasn’t with him, he was with a deputy. During the last week, Brandon had accompanied Nate everywhere, including going on the many shopping trips needed to replace his ruined wardrobe and personal belongings. He’d received no more threats since the night of the attack, but Bran was taking no chances. He’d protested Nate’s going back to work, but had finally given in after making Nate promise not to leave the office by himself and not to be caught anywhere alone. This morning, he’d even had one of his men follow Nate to work.
Even though no incriminating evidence was found (the blood on his clothes turned out to be pig’s blood), news of Nate’s near miss had produced one startling side effect: everyone in town knew he was gay. That meant he was fair game for every gay man in town. Even the straight women, those who had a gay friend or relative, flocked to the re-opened office to put in their bids. So far this morning, Nate had received three offers for dinner and four phone numbers. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet.
Nathan knocked on the door and entered the exam room without checking the name on the chart. He found a little old lady sitting on the exam table, her short legs dangling over the side. She was wearing a turquoise blouse and an orange skirt. Though Nate was sure he’d never seen her before, there was something familiar about her.
He crossed the room and shook her hand. “Hi. I’m Dr. Morris. So what seems to be the problem, Mrs.,” he glanced down at the chart, “Taylor?” Uh-oh. Now he knew why she looked so familiar. He’d spent every night of the last week dreaming about eyes the exact same color as those.
She smiled. It should have been a comforting sight coming from a sweet little old lady like her, but for some reason Nate felt like he was about to be questioned by the Spanish Inquisition.
“Actually, Doctor, I think I may have a touch of gout. Runs in my family, you know. Speaking of family, tell me about yours.”
Nate said, “Why don’t we get you checked out first? We can talk about my family later.”
“Of course, dear.” She was silent while Nate examined one of her stocking-clad legs. After a minute she said, “I hope it’s nothing serious. I have to be well enough to keep up with those great-grandchildren of mine. Speaking of grandchildren, I believe you know my grandson.”
Nate almost laughed but caught himself. “Really? Who’s your grandson?”
“Brandon Nash. He’s the sheriff here in Reed. A fine boy, if I do say so. He’s a homosexual, you know.”
Nate was bent over checking her reflexes when she said the last part. The matter-of-fact way she said it caused him to drop the reflex hammer on his toe.
“Are you alright, Doctor.”
“Yes, ma’am. Just a little clumsy today, is all. Mrs. Taylor—”
“Please, call me Abigail.”
“Alright, Abigail. I can’t find any signs of gout. Are you in a lot of pain?”
“Some. Perhaps you should check me over one more time.”
Nate dutifully did as he was told, praying he would find something so he could write her a prescription and send her home. He should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.
“So, doctor, I hear you’re a homosexual, too.”
Nate stood up so fast his stethoscope slid from around his neck to the floor with a metallic thud.
“You certainly do have a case of the dropsy’s today, Dr. Morris. Are you getting enough sleep?”
“Such a polite boy, too. Although. . .you never did answer my question.”
Knowing he wasn’t going to get around answering, Nate picked up his stethoscope and said, “Yes, ma’am, I am a homosexual, and I do know Brandon. In fact, I’m staying with him for a few days until the person who vandalized my apartment and office is caught.”
Abigail nodded her head sympathetically. “I heard all about that dreadful business. Imagine targeting someone just because they like men instead of women. What is this world coming to?” She watched as Nate made a notation on her chart. “Doctor?”
“I wonder if I might ask you a personal question.”
Nate couldn’t imagine anything any more personal than she’d already asked, but he found himself saying yes, anyway.
“Well, I heard that anal sex is very popular lately, even among heterosexuals. I thought maybe you could tell me whether or not you enjoy it. My husband and I might like to try it sometime.”
Nate pressed down so hard on the chart he was writing on, the plastic casing of his ball-point pen snapped right in half. Before he could answer her, the door swung open. A furious Brandon stood on the other side.
“Grandma, please tell me you aren’t giving Nate a hard time.”
“Why Brandon, what on earth are you doing here?”
“I was on my way to ask Nate to have lunch with me. Imagine my surprise when I saw your car out front.”
Abigail had the good graces to blush. “I came to have Dr. Morris look at my gout. Runs in the family, you know.”
“Nobody in our family has ever had a case of the gout, you included.”
“There’s a first time for everything. Dr. Morris has been taking excellent care of me. He’s a homosexual just like you are, dear.”
Nate had to hide his grin when he saw Brandon’s jaw start to twitch. “So I’ve heard.”
“Yes. In fact, Dr. Morris was just about to tell me whether or not he likes anal sex. Grandpa and I are thinking of branching out, so to speak.”