Chapter 18…

Phil walked up to the nurse's station, waiting as patiently as he could manage while the woman behind the desk finished up a conversation with a doctor. Jason had sent him a text telling him where to go. He had gone to get breakfast. Unfortunately, Jason gave him the floor but not the room number. Once the woman was done, she turned to him, smiling softly, "How can I help you?"

"I'm looking for Jordan Wyatt."

"Her doctor's in her room right now. She can't have any visitors right now."

The booming voice he heard definitely did not belong to the small woman in front of him. He turned around and looked up to meet the man's face. There was no mistaking who he was: Harry Cartwright. He was 6'7" and looked like he could still suit up and play in the NFL. His skin was darker than Jordan and Wesley's and he had very close cropped black hair and a goatee that were both just beginning to gray. His eyes were the same warm brown as Jordan's. Those eyes were narrowed at Phil in suspicion and he put his hands on his hips, his square jaw clenched.

Phil could hear the nurse behind him shuffle away and he couldn't blame her. He knew when he was being sized up so he kept his shoulders square and his chin high. He offered his hand, "Phil Brooks. I'm a friend of Jordan's."

Harry looked down at Phil's hand and then back at his face, "Are you the new boyfriend?"

Phil wasn't exactly sure how to answer that question. He wasn't about to come out and say 'Hi, nice to meet you, I've been sleeping with your daughter.'

"I uh..I wasn't aware she had a boyfriend," he said. "We're friends."

Harry's shoulders seemed to relax slightly and he let his hands fall from his hips, "I apologize, I'm a little on edge today."

"That's understandable," Phil nodded.

"Jordan told her brother that some asshole she likes upset her a couple days ago," Harry said, walking over to sit in one of the waiting room chairs. They were clearly not made for someone his size and he didn't look even remotely comfortable.

"What uh..what makes you think the guy's an asshole?" Phil asked, scratching behind his ear.

"My daughter likes to say that she doesn't have a type but she does," Harry gave a wry smile. "Idiots and assholes. She's like a damn magnet."

Phil laughed, "That explains Dex."

"Yes it does," Harry laughed. He held out his hand, "I didn't properly introduce myself. Harry Cartwright."

"Nice to meet you," Phil shook his hand.

A beautiful older woman wearing purple scrubs with her dark hair twisted back into a loose bun walked into the waiting area and smiled at Harry. Phil thought for a moment that she was Jordan's doctor but then she took a seat beside Harry, taking one of his large hands in both of hers.

"How is she?" Harry asked.

"She's Jordan," the woman smiled fondly. "She tried to charm that poor doctor into sending her home now. When he said no, she turned on SportsCenter and started ignoring him. Wouldn't say another word."

"Stubborn as a god damn mule," Harry shook his head, squeezing the woman's hands. He seemed to remember Phil's presence and nodded in his direction, "Phil, this is my wife Grace. Grace, this is Jordan's friend Phil."

"Oh, Jason told me you were coming," she said, walking over and shaking his hand. "It's very nice to meet you. I've seen you on TV."

"Nice to meet you too," he smiled, feeling warmed by her presence. She practically radiated maternal love.

"Excuse the ensemble," she laughed, sitting in one of the seats between Harry and Phil. "I just finished a shift."

"Grace works at Northwestern," Harry explained. "I still think we should have her moved there."

"Honey, that really isn't necessary," Grace laughed. "Jordan's just fine where she is."

"So do they know what happened?" Phil asked.

"Exhaustion and dehydration," Grace explained. "Not enough sleep, not enough food. When she passed out she took a pretty good knock on the head as well. The doctor thinks she has a concussion. She was on IV fluids overnight, should be able to go home this evening."

Phil felt a strange sense of relief. Exhaustion and Dehydration wasn't good but it was easy to fix. He had come up with a thousand things that could be wrong on the drive there. It was good to know his fears were wrong.

"I apologize again for being a little rough when you first got here," Harry said warmly. "I'm not in the best mood after my daughter conspired with my lovely wife here to try and keep me from finding out about this."

Grace rolled her eyes dramatically, "Jordan and I both knew you were going to overreact and come all the way down here from Bourbonnais. Which you did."

"Damn right I did. That's my little girl," Harry said. "And you shouldn't encourage her to keep things like this from me."

"She was going to tell you," Grace insisted. "She just wanted to wait until she was able to go home. Now why don't you go lecture her and not me?"

Harry sighed deeply and stood up, looking over at Phil, "You can go in and see her after I'm done threatening to kill her for not taking care of herself. Okay?"

"Sounds good," Phil nodded.

When Harry was gone Grace laughed, "He acts all big and bad but that girl has had him wrapped around her finger from day one. He's gonna go in there and she'll pout and he won't be able to say a single harsh word."

"He seemed pretty pissed," Phil laughed.

"He's really a teddy bear," Grace smirked. "And I've already given her a hell of a talking to so it's okay if he waffles."

Phil could hear a hint of a southern accent the more he talked to Grace. He searched her face to see if maybe Jordan looked more like her than her father but the only similarity he saw was their lighter skin tone.

"I can't get too mad at her," Grace said, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "She gets it from her father. Career comes first. Never turn down work. Always go above and beyond. Better and smarter and faster than everyone else."

"She works very hard," Phil agreed.

"And she's great at what she does," Grace smiled proudly. "Just like you're great at what you do."

"Thank you."

"I just want her to be happy and healthy," Grace sighed. "She normally takes good care of herself. I just worry that this new job may be too much for her."

Phil tried to give her a reassuring smile. "She's still getting used to the schedule and she's had a hiccup but you shouldn't be too worried. She's gonna be okay. And I'll keep an eye on her."

Grace smiled, reaching over and patting him on the hand, "Thank you."

Jordan looked up at the ceiling, counting the ceiling tiles for the third time. She hated hospitals with a passion, always had, and if she couldn't leave soon she was going to lose her mind. She'd already endured lectures from her father, her step-mother, and the doctor plus a lengthy phone call with Arden where she had to convince her friend not to fly in from California. She was tired and just wanted to go home. She certainly wasn't getting any rest in a hospital bed.

There was a light knock on the door and she sighed deeply, preparing herself for the next round of scolding. Jason hadn't been in the room in a while.

"Come in," she called.

When the door opened she was balling up a piece of paper to throw at Jason. To her surprise, when the door opened, the first thing she saw was a familiar tattooed hand.

As Phil walked into the room, she put down her paper weapon and pushed her glasses up on her nose.

"Hey," he smiled at her. He laughed, pointing at her paper ball, "What were you planning on doing with that?"

"I thought you were someone else," she shrugged. "What are you doing here?"

"I heard you were in here causing trouble," he said, pulling the visitor's chair close to the side of the bed.

She resisted the urge to cover her face in embarrassment. It was bad enough that she'd gotten herself into this position but the fact that it happened in the middle of a show meant that there was no way to keep it a secret. She wasn't a child, she knew how to take care of herself, she'd just been busier than ever the last few weeks and apparently she'd let nutrition fall by the wayside.

His eyes landed on the bandage on her forehead, "How bad?"

"3 stitches," she answered. "Enough to hurt, but not enough to be bad ass."

"I think it looks very bad ass," he said, sitting on the edge of her bed instead of the chair.

"You really didn't have to come," she said, tucking her hair behind her ear. "I'm totally fine."

"Yeah well..I wanted to see that for myself," he said, touching the back of her hand. He looked at her with concern, his hazel eyes searching hers, "Jordan, I care about you. I'm sorry if I've done anything to make it seem like I don't."

"Oh God, you don't think this was about you, do you?" she said, mortified. She covered her face with her hands, unable to bear the thought. She prayed his ego wasn't that big.

"No," he laughed. "I don't think you're starving yourself over me. I do think I've been kind of an ass though."

"Who told you that?" she smirked, daring to meet his eyes again.

"What makes you think someone had to tell me?" he asked.

She raised an eyebrow, not answering his question.

"Colt may have pointed it out to me," he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. "I kinda wish you would have. We're friends if nothing else. I don't want you to feel like you can't talk to me. Plus, I really hate it when Colt is right."

"I'm not really big on talking about my feelings," she admitted, toying with the edge of her blanket. "It makes me itch."

"Well I can't read your mind," he said. "So if something's wrong, you have to tell me. You may not have noticed this but…I get a little self-involved sometimes."

"You?" she feigned shock and they both laughed.

She sighed, looking at his face again, slightly in shadow under his ever-present, filthy Cubs hat.

"I was just starting to feel…" she took a deep breath, trying to shake the feeling that she was being silly. He wanted to know how she felt. "I guess it just seemed like you weren't really concerned about my feelings. I get that you don't want drama with Beth and that's fine, neither do I. But that doesn't mean that I want to be treated like a Real Doll."

He laughed a little at her reference to the sex toy and she playfully slapped his hand, "I'm serious."

"I know you are, and I'm sorry," he said sincerely. "I swear I will never treat you like a Real Doll again."

"Pinky swear?" she smirked, holding up her little finger.

He laughed, "I don't think pinky swears and Real Dolls go together."

John pulled his truck to a stop in front of the house, stifling a yawn. He had exactly one day to be home and he needed to drop off some clothes, pick up new ones, and hopefully, get a little bit of sleep. He pressed the garage door opener but the door didn't move. He tried pressing it again two more times and still nothing. He rolled his eyes, getting out of the car to open it manually. He heard a noise and turned, spotting his neighbor Janet, tending to her gigantic garden. She was always bringing flowers over for Ashley. Once, when Ashley had a cold, John came home to find their bedroom so full of roses he couldn't stand to stay there. He slept on the couch downstairs to get away from the overpowering smell. She was a nice woman though and her kids were big fans. He waved her way and when she saw the gesture, she frowned and then looked away quickly. John shrugged, walking to the garage door and typing in the passcode. It didn't work and he sighed, walking around to the front door and unlocking it.

He walked through the entryway, pleased that the house was quiet for once. It seemed like every time he came home there was construction going on and he couldn't get a moment's peace. This time, Ashley had assured him that she would be at her mother's so he would have the house to himself. He walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, pushing past what seemed like a hundred bottles of vitamin water, Ashley's favorite, until he found a bottle of water. When he closed the door, he found himself looking at his wife's face.

"Shit!" He dropped the water bottle, startled. "What are you doing here?"

"I live here," she shrugged, brushing past him and opening the fridge, pulling out one of her Vitamin Waters.

"You said you were going to be at your mom's," he reminded her. "Last I checked, your mother doesn't live here."

"I changed my mind," she shrugged. "Decided I'd rather be here."

He sighed, picking up his water and opening it, "Do you have any idea why Janet gave me the cold shoulder out there?"

"I don't know," she shrugged. "But she was awfully sympathetic when she found out you were cheating on me. Maybe it has something to do with that."

John narrowed his eyes, his shoulders growing tense, "You told her that bullshit?"

"You and I both know it's not bullshit," she glared back at him.

"How many times do I have to tell you I am not cheating on you?" he asked. "The divorce isn't about that."

"Then what is it about John?" she asked angrily. She crossed her arms over her chest, "If it's not that, then what the hell is it about?"

"It's about the fact that we aren't right for each other," he said angrily. "And we probably never were."

She flinched as if his words had struck her. He felt guilty but at the same time, he meant what he said. He couldn't keep having the same conversation, the same fight with her.

"You want the house to yourself?" she picked up her car keys. "Fine. Enjoy yourself."

She stormed out of the room and he sighed, leaning over the island. He heard the door slam so hard he hoped she hadn't broken it. He heard the garage door open and moments later, her car peeled out of the driveway. He couldn't wait until this emotional rollercoaster was over. He didn't want to say hurtful things to her, he didn't want to fight. He just wanted it to be over.

He picked up his keys, walking toward the front door. At least she left the garage door up.


Phil set down the bags he carried from Whole Foods, knocking on Jordan's door. He probably should have called first but he hadn't actually planned on going to her house when he left his. He went to the grocery store that morning and while he was there, it dawned on him that she was probably alone and he didn't like the thought of it. If he knew her, she was probably doing too much and not resting nearly enough. He heard her feet shuffling toward the door and when it opened, her brown eyes were wide with surprise. He shook his head, chuckling at her appearance. She wore a purple and yellow Chili Peppers shirt that stopped mid-thigh and her dark curls were piled messily on top of her head. She was wearing a different pair of glasses than the day before. These were the same color purple as her shirt and had slid down to the end of her nose.

"How many of these do you have?" he laughed, pointing to her shirt.

"More than I should probably admit," she answered, tilting her head and looking up at him. "What are you doing here?"

"Mrs. Davis let me in," he smiled. "She really likes me."

"I know, she always asks about you," Jordan smiled, opening the door wider and allowing him inside. "You didn't answer my question. What are you doing here?"

"Believe it or not, I actually have the day off," he said, picking up the bags and walking past her into the kitchen. "And I thought you might be working."

"You thought I might be working, so you decided to come and bother me?" she laughed, following behind him.

"I decided to come and remind you that you're supposed to be resting," he said, beginning to unpack the bags. "And to make you chicken soup."

She walked over to him, placing her hand gently over his forehead.

He raised an eyebrow at her, "What are you doing?"

"Checking you for a fever," she smirked, letting her hand fall. "Something must be wrong. The Phil Brooks I know wouldn't do something as sappy as making soup for a girl."

"Well then I guess that proves that you don't know me that well," he said.

"I guess you're right," she said, sitting on a barstool. "Sometimes I forget we haven't actually known each other that long."

He could understand what she meant. He was guilty of the same thing. That definitely contributed to the miscommunications they'd experienced so far. He assumed she knew what he was thinking and vice versa.

"This is really sweet of you," she said, pulling down the hem of her t-shirt. "But I don't like chicken soup."

Phil came around the island and stood in front of her, smiling, "You'll like this one."

He didn't know for sure that she would like it but he was pretty confident in his ability to do just about anything so he figured the soup had a pretty high chance of being successful. He probably should have done some research before deciding what to make her but it was too late now.

"Have you ever even made this before?" she laughed.

He put his hands on either side of her barstool, giving her a stern look. Their eyes were locked for a few seconds before she started giggling, drawing a laugh from him, "No, I haven't. But it can't be that hard, right?"

"For you?" she raised an eyebrow. "I don't know."

"Shut up," he pushed her glasses up on her nose. She was acting normal but he could tell by looking at her that she was still not feeling one hundred percent. Her eyes looked a little red and tired and he noticed that her hands seemed shaky. The stern expression returned to his face as he spoke again, "Now you can sit there and watch if you want but you're not allowed to help."

"This is my kitchen," she laughed.

"Not for the rest of the day it's not," he shrugged.

"Fine," she rolled her eyes. "I'll just go finish what I was writing."

"No you will not," Phil pointed at her. He knew she was working. "You do know what rest means, right?"

"Yes, and do you know what deadline means?" she smiled.

He considered arguing with her, reminding her that working too much was what caused her to end up in the hospital but then he remembered her father's apt assessment. She was stubborn as a mule and obviously had been all of her 25 years. He wasn't about to change that.

"How much do you have left?" he asked

"Just finishing touches," she insisted. "I'll be done in 15 minutes."

"Fine, 15 minutes," he pointed. "After that you're gonna be lazy and eat in front of the TV like a normal person."

She smiled, "You have my word."

She walked out of the kitchen and he set about figuring out where she kept her cooking utensils. The pots and pans were at least easy to find, hanging from a chrome pot rack affixed to the ceiling. He got the feeling he was being watched and he looked over his shoulder. Jordan was leaning against the door frame.

"Didn't I send you away?" he walked over to her, placing a hand on her waist.

"You did," she nodded. "You know, you don't have to wait on me. I'm sure you have better things to do on your day off. I'm totally fine."

"I'm doing exactly what I want to," he said quickly and honestly. He moved his hand around to her back and pulled her close. He resisted the urge to kiss her lips, instead placing a kiss on her forehead. He didn't want her to think that he was there for sex. She gave him a puzzled look and he shrugged, "You should feel special. I would never do this for my Real Doll."

Hope you enjoyed the double update. I am hard at work on the next chapter. Please take a minute to review if you can. The more reviews I get, the more motivated I will be to post the next chapter. Thanks!

Preview for Chapter 19...

Arden is torn when she gets two interesting offers for the same night

John confides in Jordan