By: Kivrin Wilson

Jay Bradshaw. My boyfriend’s best friend.

He was never supposed to be anything more—until he was.

When my college boyfriend betrayed me and left, breaking my heart, Jay picked a side. He chose me. He stayed, and for the past six years, he’s been my rock, my anchor, my compass…

Now we’ve grown up, finished school, and have careers. Me as a nurse practitioner; Jay as a doctor. He’s been everything I needed, but now I want more. I can’t stop thinking about him, and I’m done hiding it.

It’s time to find out if he wants me, too.

A friend. Not a lover. That’s who Mia Waters is to me.

I’ve tried damn hard to make sure our relationship stays that way. I’m the shoulder she leans on, the last one to talk to her before she goes to sleep at night… And after six years, she means more to me than my own family.

The moment I met her, I wanted her. But she belonged to someone else, so I pushed the need down. I didn’t take what I wanted. I’m not that guy. Her happiness meant more.

Until now. Until she asks me a question that shatters our unspoken boundaries. Have you ever thought about having sex with me? Six years of keeping her at arm’s length, and I can feel myself starting to give in and lose control with her.

I can’t let it happen. There are reasons I didn’t get close. She hasn’t let go of her ex-boyfriend, not really. And she has no idea about the lies I’ve told her.

What if she finds out about me? What if she finds out who I really am?

And what will she do when I leave?

To my dad, for teaching me how to read and for inspiring my lifelong love of books.

I lost you way too soon. Miss you.

I’m going to ask him tonight.

The thought keeps popping into my head, as unwelcome and persistent as an earworm. It’s the same kind of urge that makes you buy something you don’t need and can’t afford. Or makes you snack when you’re not hungry.

Or makes you say something you know you shouldn’t.

I’m lounging on my couch with a bottle of Red Stripe in my hand, feet propped on the coffee table next to the empty box of the pizza we just polished off while watching an episode of House, M.D. on Netflix.

Beside me, just a few inches away, Jay is stretched out and relaxed, his eyes on the flat-screen. His tight-fitting black tee and khaki cargo shorts are standard attire for him when he’s not in his hospital scrubs, and because it’s his day off, his square-jawed face shows a shadow of scruff that matches the black of his short-and-tousled hair.

It’s Friday evening, and this is how we like to unwind. Nothing unusual there. Except tonight I’m antsy and uneasy, restlessness creeping under my skin, and as the mellow, melancholy music of the final scene fades into the end credits, it hits me that I can’t summarize what I just watched.

“Well, that was a bullshit episode,” Jay announces, reaching for the bottle of beer on the side table by his armrest.

“Was it?” I pick up the remote and hit the Stop button. “Guess I wasn’t paying that much attention.”

My best friend slants me a glance, looking exasperated. “It made no sense. Millions of people have mitral valve prolapse. Very few of them are even at risk of developing endocarditis. And the aneurysm stuff was ridiculous. The vascular study was negative, but they rush him into surgery anyway, just in case the study was wrong? That hospital must have some seriously good malpractice insurance.”

I let out a snort-laugh. Mostly to cover up the fact that I have no idea what he’s talking about. Because my mind was elsewhere. “I think we’ve discussed before how pointless it is to expect medical accuracy from a TV show.”

Jay’s lips soften in a self-deprecating smile, his pale eyes twinkling. “I just don’t think it’d be that hard for them to get it right.”

No, he wouldn’t, would he? I realize in a flash that his reactions and rants afterward are almost the best part for me, because it’s Jay being so…Jay.

I shrug. “They know the majority of their viewers won’t know the difference and the drama of it is more important for their ratings.”

“Which explains the BDSM angle?”

He arches his eyebrows at me, and something curls and then unfurls inside me. BDSM? Maybe I should’ve paid better attention. And am I imagining the traces of heat in his eyes, the hint of flirtation?

Yeah, that’s probably just me projecting.

“Right,” I agree. “Because sex sells.”

Jay keeps his gaze on me for another moment, and then he averts it, lifting his bottle back up to his mouth.