Liz pouted, “Didn’t look like it. Well, out with it. Something’s bothering you. I’d like to know what.”
Hugh stopped eating too. He stared at Liz and wondered if he ought to tell her. When he’d made the date to meet that day, he had simply wanted to see her warm smile again. Talking to her soothed him. With Liz, he realized, there was never any kind of pretense. She was open as a book.
But then, later in the week, Tim had given him the intel he’d gathered about Adam Whitman from his time at the rehab center. And it was exactly the kind of news that would break Liz’s sensitive heart. Whitman was a first-rate cad. But he knew Liz worshipped him. His heart bled for her. Hugh told himself he’d do his best to support her. She’d probably never see him as anything more than a friend, and especially not when her heart was still so set on Whitman. But he would never dream of pressuring her into a relationship.
Hugh had done a ton of thinking in the last couple of days. He’d gone home straight from Liz’s house the weekend before. He’d told Kelly he was fine, and that he needed to be by himself to be able to think clearly again. Kelly had talked to him a while, no doubt an attempt at gauging his emotional frame of mind, for which he was thankful. She must have concluded he’d be fine, because she gave him a hug and left, telling him to give her a call if he wanted to talk.
Hugh had shut himself home, only taking calls from his family and Tim. Liz hadn’t called and he hadn’t expected her to. He knew she was far too busy at the hospital. He’d used the time to just sit and think, without having a zillion distractions around him.
It had been enlightening. He’d realized he no longer cared that Savannah and Damon were together, or that they’d married, or that they were expecting a baby together. What had mattered was that Liz had stood by him, she had handled the situation exceptionally gracefully when he himself had checked out, and that she’d cared enough about him to keep him in her home overnight so she could check up on him. She hadn’t stopped to wonder what Whitman or anyone else would make of it. And since then, Hugh had become aware of a growing need to be around Liz more often, the urge to keep her by his side for every day of the rest of his life growing stronger by the minute.
When he’d seen Liz at the door tonight, he’d felt the strongest impulse to gather her in his arms and kiss her for days. But then he’d remembered she loved Adam Whitman, and a part of him died. But he’d rallied, having promised himself he’d always look out for her.
He looked at her now, still undecided whether he should spill all about Whitman.
When Liz saw Hugh hesitating, she grew alarmed. “Hugh, you’re scaring me. Whatever it is, I can take it. Spill!”
Hugh sighed, “It’s about Adam Whitman. I apologize in advance if any of this hurts you, Liz. We don’t have to continue this conversation, you know?”
Liz looked at him beadily, “C’mon, Hugh. You must know me better than that, by now. Please go on. I want to hear it.”
Hugh nodded and went on, “Tim found some more intel on Whitman. Evidently, he left the rehab he was working for, under a cloud. There had been complaints about not being competent enough before. But with Mrs. Taylor, it was different. They, umm, they were caught being intimate. And, you’ll know that that’s a strict no-no. So, he was kicked out. She left too, and brought him here. And before you ask, Dr. Gupta is most likely unaware about this. It was all hushed up. Tim had to do a bit of sleuthing but he found out that Whitman hadn’t left voluntarily. Even now, there are a couple of active cases against him.”
Liz was nonplussed. Whatever she’d been expecting him to say, it hadn’t been this. In truth, she hadn’t thought of Adam Whitman in a romantic way for days now. But, she realized, she had never shared this with Hugh, because if he’d asked her why, she’d have never been able to come up with an answer.
The next instant, a cold thought enveloped her mind. “Is that the reason you decided to meet me today, Hugh? To tell me about Adam?”
Hugh was confused, “Well, yeah. I thought I ought to tell you this face to face, you know? I wouldn’t want to tell you this by text or phone, or worse, by email.”
“How very kind of you,” Liz murmured, her heart shattering. She’d believed Hugh wanted to meet her. Not to tell her about Whitman. But to meet her. How stupid she’d been, thought Liz, her heart so heavy she could hardly breathe. Of course, Hugh would never see her in any other light. He was used to dating supermodels, women that looked like Savannah. Liz herself was just a dumpy, nerdy doctor. Hugh was in all likelihood still hung up over Savannah, she told herself. Why wouldn’t he? Have you looked at her? A voice in her head screamed.
She got up from her chair, “I have to go,” she managed to croak.
Hugh was so startled, he immediately shot up too, “Liz! Is everything okay? I should never have told you about Whitman. Please, Liz, don’t take this to heart. That man has never deserved you.”
True, thought Liz. And apparently, I don’t deserve you either.
She said, “Umm, that’s not it, Hugh. I couldn’t care less about Adam Whitman. But, umm, I’m not feeling well. I’d like to go home, if that’s okay.”
Hugh nodded and paid the cheque. They drove in silence. Liz had shut her eyes and was leaning on the window in the car. When they reached her apartment, Hugh leaned towards her.
“Liz, should I come upstairs? Are you okay?”
Liz nodded, not trusting her voice. She patted Hugh’s arm without looking at him, hoping he’d take that to mean that she was fine, and got out of the car.
She stood near the entrance of the apartment and waved to Hugh, then rushed inside.
Hugh had a terrible feeling as he watched her go. Her wave had seemed so final. Feeling a mounting sense of disquiet, he drove over to Kelly’s house.
‘The CEO’s Favorite Doctor: A Wholesome Romantic Comedy’ by Bhakti Mathew