As Liz’s eyes widened, he called out to Dr. Whitman, “Dr. Whitman! Adam? Over here!”
Liz was gazing mutely at Hugh. He pressed her arm reassuringly and whispered, “Just go with it. And don’t worry, I won’t embarrass you.”
Aloud, he said, “Thank you for joining us, Dr. Whitman. I was telling Liz here that as soon as the two of you let me loose, she should be my date to the upcoming game. Do you follow baseball?”
Dr. Whitman seemed a little lost, but recovered quickly. “Umm, yeah. I mean, not like a huge fan. But I try to catch the occasional game on TV.”
Hugh nodded, “I understand. You guys are super-busy. On your feet all day, I imagine. Dr. Liz here says she might not have the time. Fortunately, I can wait. I have season passes.” Hugh winked. To his amusement, his bulldozer act was working. Liz and Whitman exchanged quick glances. Hugh was feeling proud of himself. He’d established himself as a pushy suitor, and Liz as the damsel in distress fleeing from Hugh’s ‘unwanted’ attentions. If Whitman was interested in her, he’d come to her rescue like a knight in shining armor any minute now.
Just as Hugh was beginning to give up on him, Dr. Whitman said, “She’s right, Mr. Regan. The hospital has never been busier. It must be the time of the year. And, Dr. Gupta runs a right ship. We hardly get any away time at all.”
Hugh glanced at Liz meaningfully. She refused to meet his eyes. But the high color on her face and the tiny smile she was trying hard to hide told him she’d understood and welcomed Whitman ‘rescuing’ her by supporting and endorsing her excuses to Hugh’s offer. Hugh hid a smile and grabbed his phone. He exclaimed, “I think my assistant is trying to get in touch with me. Excuse me!” He left, feeling great about himself for a having done a good deed. The next instant, his spirits fell. Whitman didn’t deserve someone like Liz, he thought. But he pushed the thought aside. After all, it was what Liz wanted. That was all that mattered.
Hugh was reading a book when there was a knock on the door and Liz entered. She was smiling broadly. Hugh sucked in a breath. The woman had a smile that could light up a room, he mused.
“You’re a genius, Hugh!” Liz exclaimed as she closed the door behind her. Hugh smirked. Liz stood at the foot of his bed and went on, “Dr. Whitman spent a good ten minutes ranting about wealthy billionaires thinking they owned everyone around them, both men and women. He didn’t take your name, of course. But he clearly meant you. Sorry about that, Hugh. But thank you!”
Hugh grinned, “No worries, Doc. He’s not wrong, either. Too many wealthy folks do think that. Well? Did he ask you out?”
Liz shook her head and then smiled impishly, like she couldn’t contain her amusement, “Nope. But he did shower a few compliments. Sadly, they were mostly about the surgeries I’ve done in the past. Nothing about me as a woman. But since I wasn’t even sure if I was on his radar, I’m counting that as a big win. Thanks again, Hugh. I cannot believe your crazy plan actually worked. Even if on a tiny scale.”
“Oh, but the plan is far from complete, Doc.”
“What do you mean? What else could you possibly say? You’ve already made him think you asked me out and I rebuffed you. What else is there?”
“True, but since that didn’t translate into him asking you out, we need to take it a step further. The endgame of the charade is he asks you out. So, we now have to lead him to it. He’s sat up and taken note that there’s a contender now. He’s already wondering if he ought to ask you out before you change your mind about dating me. Now, we give him reason to. Add a sense of urgency.”
Liz was shaking head in awe, “You’re diabolical, Hugh. No wonder you’re such a successful businessman. And I bet with the games you play, and well enough too, there must have been a long line of women waiting breathlessly to be asked out by you.”
Hugh’s face sobered up. Gone was the smirk, Liz realized suddenly. She remembered the fiasco with Damon and Savannah and kicked herself for not biting her tongue.
Hugh replied, “Sadly, I’ve never played any of these games in my own life, believe it or not. Had I done that, possibly Savannah would still have been with me.” He shrugged, “Or, she might have lost interest in me even sooner. The trouble with these games, Doc, is that if you’re not careful enough to reel them back in time, you lose the person anyway. Nobody likes being manipulated. So, we play along only until your Dr. Whitman finally gets off his butt and does something about the fact that he really does like you.”
Liz stepped closer and sat on the chair beside Hugh’s bed, “You’re a great guy, Hugh. I’m so sorry about insinuating you’ve played these games in your own life. I know the thing with your ex and your friend must hurt like crazy. I’m so sorry you went through that.”
Hugh said, “Thanks, Doc.” Privately, Hugh thought he was simply not in the mood to talk about his ex, anymore. Liz’s words about playing games had reminded him how skillfully he’d been played by both Savannah and Damon for the longest time. God, how that hurt. How was he ever going to get over the betrayal? By not thinking about it, he decided.
Aloud, he said, “We carry out step two now, Doc. He’ll be eyeing me with resentment right now, for troubling you and going after you. You need to give the tiniest hint to him that you’re actually beginning to consider it.”
‘The CEO’s Favorite Doctor: A Wholesome Romantic Comedy’ by Bhakti Mathew