Anyone but You Read online

  Nina’s contempt deepened. “Yes, Alexander, there is a Santa Claus. But those breasts are not real.”

  “I’d rather believe in the breasts.”

  Nina picked up a magazine from the side table and thwapped him upside the head with it.

  “Hey!” Alex turned around, scowling at her.

  Nina scowled back. “Well, you deserve it. You’d rather have breasts that look like Jell-O molds than real-life breasts?”

  “I’ll take any breasts.” Alex turned back to the TV. “Jell-O molds, huh? You may have a point.”

  “Of course I have a point,” Nina said. “I bet they don’t feel natural, either.”

  “They don’t,” Alex said, “but they don’t feel bad.”

  “And how do you know—never mind.” Nina held up her hand before he could speak. “I know. You’re a doctor.”

  “Well, no, I found that out dating.” Alex picked up the remote. “This is probably not a good movie for us. There must be other classics on tonight that we won’t fight over.”

  Nina watched the channels flash before her eyes and debated grabbing the remote and smacking him with it. She had no idea why she was so violent lately. Fortunately, it was always in connection with Alex who deserved beating, anyway.

  “Here,” he said. “Now this is a real classic.”

  Nina squinted at the screen. Rosalind Russell was marching completely dressed through a room full of typewriters, blood in her eye. Nina could relate. Then Rosalind went through a door and there was Cary Grant. “This is much better,” she told Alex. “What is this?”

  “His Girl Friday,” Alex told her. “You’ve never seen this? I can’t believe it. You’re going to love this. Everything Rosalind has is her original equipment and she doesn’t take anything off.”

  Why would she love that? It sounded boring. He must think she was boring. Nina looked back to the screen and watched Rosalind play verbal Ping-Pong with Cary Grant, their dialogue so rapid she was caught up in it within seconds.

  By the time Cary had insisted on meeting Ralph Bellamy, who was dumb enough to think he was going to be married to Rosalind by the end of the movie, Nina was stretched out on the couch, watching raptly over Alex’s shoulder, as usual. “This is a very sexy movie,” she said once in his ear, and he turned his head to grin at her over his shoulder, close enough that if she leaned forward a couple of inches, her mouth would be on his.

  “I know,” he said, and she looked into his eyes for a moment and felt dizzy again, felt the heat rise and cloud her mind and make her body tense. She closed her eyes and tried to think of anything else but Alex and how near he was and how much she wanted him.

  Then he turned back to the movie, and she tried to think cool thoughts while Roz and Cary made verbal love on the television screen.

  She’d never been happier and more miserable in her life.

  Chapter Five

  “Do you ever think about just dating one woman?” Alex asked Max the next night over his coffee table and their beers. “Move in with her? Commit?”

  Max choked and spit out his beer. “God, no. Don’t say things like that to me while I’m drinking.” He mopped at the beer on his black shirt. “Oh, hell, and this was a good shirt, too.”

  “I was just thinking it would be nice,” Alex said. “You know, knowing you were coming home every night to the same woman. Comfortable.”

  Max stopped mopping and squinted at him. “It can’t be Tricia the weeper, and Debbie’s long gone, and even you’re not dumb enough to move in with Deirdre.” He shuddered at the thought.

  “Dated Deirdre, did you?”

  “Only once,” Max said. “You wouldn’t believe what she did to me at dinner.”

  “Sure I would,” Alex said.

  “You, too, huh?” Max shook his head. “I believe in safe sex, but not in the middle of the appetizer. Our waiter almost had heart failure.”

  “Hell,” Alex said, “I almost had heart failure.”

  “So if it’s not Deirdre, who is it?”

  “Nina,” Alex said.

  Max raised his eyebrows. “Still Nina? You hadn’t said anything for a while, so I thought you’d given up on her.”

  Alex shook his head. “Nope. Nina is not the kind of woman it is possible to give up on.”

  Max took another drink. “You’ve been holding out on me. I didn’t even know you’d started dating her.”

  “I haven’t.” Alex leaned forward and picked up his second beer. “I’m afraid to ask her out.”

  Max frowned at him. “I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, but if you’re afraid to ask her to commit for dinner, how in the hell are you ever going to ask her to move in with you?”

  Alex leaned his head back against the couch. “I’m not. At least, not right now. She’d spit on me.” He stared miserably at the ceiling. “She was married to Guy Adams.”

  Max whistled. “Big bucks.”

  Alex nodded. “Dad’s got an opening in the cardiac unit.”

  Max stopped with his beer halfway to his mouth. “You told me you liked the ER.”

  Alex closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to meet Max’s. “I do. But as you keep pointing out, cardiology is more money. And as Dad keeps pointing out, it’s a real career.”

  “So’s the ER,” Max said.

  “I know.” Alex felt miserable. “I know. But I’m thinking about cardiology anyway.”

  “Yeah, but you’re thinking about it as a way to get the money to get Nina.” Max shook his head and took a drink. “Bad idea,” he said when he’d swallowed. “Never plan a career around a woman.”

  “You’re probably right,” Alex said, and then the doorbell rang.

  When he answered it, Charity was standing there, all wild red hair and impossibly long legs in a hot pink dress so short he thought for a minute it was a T-shirt.

  “I came to ask a favor,” she said, and Alex thought of all the men in the world who would love to be in his shoes, and of how much he’d love it if it was Nina in front of him in hot pink asking him for something. Anything. Preferably something that required him touching her. Lying down and touching her. Lying down naked and touching her.

  “Alex?” Charity said, and he said, “Sure. Come on in.”

  She stepped inside the living room, and Max stood up, looking poleaxed as his eyes made the trip from her ankle-strapped heels and thigh-high black stockings to her tangled red hair tied on top of her head with what Alex thought might be another black stocking.

  “This is my brother, Max,” Alex said.

  Max held out his hand and beamed at her. “More than happy to meet you.”

  Charity scowled at him. “I’m a lesbian.”

  Max pulled his hand back. “Did I ask?”

  Alex stepped between them. “Can I get you something to drink?” he asked Charity. “Some milk? An Oreo?”

  “No.” Charity lost her scowl. “Listen, Norma’s reading group is going to read my book next Friday.” She opened her black vinyl bag, a purse large enough to stock a small country, and pulled out a thick stack of papers held together with a rubber band. “And I thought that maybe you’d read it, too, and come to the group next Friday and give us a guy’s opinion of it.” She smiled up at him, anxious, coaxing, and Alex thought again what a waste it was for her to be smiling at him. “Nina’s coming, too,” she told him, and he took the manuscript and said, “I’ll be there.”

  Charity’s smile widened. “Thank you. I appreciate it. Truly.” Her smile dimmed to about five watts as she looked over his shoulder at Max. “Nice meeting you.”

  Max nodded. “Give my regards to the rest of the girls.”

  Charity closed her eyes.

  “He’s kidding,” Alex said. “Knock it off, Max.”

  Charity ignored Max to turn to Alex. “I’ll see you Friday then. And thank you!”

  When she was gone, Alex glared at his brother. “Did you have to say that?”

  Max shrugged and went back to his chair.