Loving Dr Jones
Moral Dilemmas Book 1
by VR Tennent
Genre: Steamy Contemporary Romance
Chapter One: Bex
My head is going to explode.
I am going to die from an explosion of the brain. Lying in bed, I curse the concoction of alcohol that flowed down my throat last night. Right now, stars—no, meteorites—are flying around my skull, crashing into and destroying any brain cells they connect with. Keeping my eyes screwed shut, terrified of the light, the sun beats through the window onto my face. Obviously, I was too drunk to even close the blinds.
Mustering enough courage to open one eye, I snap it shut. Perhaps the other one will be less agonising. No, it feels like someone is stabbing at my eye sockets with a toothpick. Eventually, both eyes open. The ceiling is swirling out of control. My stomach retches.
Another Sunday morning lost to the demon drink. Another weekend ruined.
I moved in two years ago. Nothing has changed. Creating my own home isn’t important. Nothing here reflects my personality apart from being unloved. Seventies styling from when the previous owner modernised it all those years ago decorates the walls. The retro flooring running throughout is old and worn. I tell myself this makes the apartment look lived-in but, in reality, it just looks dilapidated. This place can make you feel drunk even when you’re sober.
A familiar dread creeps through the alcohol fog. What happened last night? What did I say? More importantly, what did I do? Reaching across to retrieve my phone, I baulk waiting for the evidence of last night’s embarrassing antics. It wouldn’t be a Sunday morning without a social media tag for a humiliating moment.
Typically, my morning-after newsfeed is littered with photos and comments, evidence of my drunken shenanigans. This would be perfectly normal, even acceptable, for a student or someone in the process of “finding themselves.” But for a thirty-three-year-old Director of English at the prestigious Hilltop Manor Academy, not so much.
Things have become so bad that I’m using an alias on my social media accounts, unfriending and blocking anyone with a link to the school. I considered removing my internet presence, but then monitoring any negativity would be impossible. It would not be the first time I have tracked someone down, appeared at their door, and begged them to remove embarrassing footage.
I lie back on my pillow and hit the familiar blue app. Nothing. Not one photo or notification. My mind tries to recall the previous evening.
We arrived at our local tavern, The Smoking Goat―our usual Saturday night haunt. The first few drinks went down too easy. I could murder for a vodka and coke right now. But after we moved on to shots, it all went fuzzy. Nope, nothing. I shake my head to try to clear the fog. What happened? How did I get home? Why the fuck is there nothing on my socials?
I always get a group picture.
I always post it.
I click onto my best friend and long-suffering sister’s page. Amy is my rock. No matter how embarrassing I become, no matter how loud, how unbearable, she scoops me up and takes me home. Her page is empty; she was definitely there last night. I vaguely recall her shrugging her shoulders at me. No doubt I asked the same question I’ve asked her ten times before.
As Amy’s page is giving me no clues, I jump over to Kelsey’s. Saturday night is always spent with the same people. We drink, dance, fall and, ultimately, vomit together. Squinting at the screen, her page looks different. I can only see limited information and her profile picture: an old photo of her and her late mother sitting out the back door drinking tea. I smile at the sweet memory. Scanning the page, I try to make sense of it. A new button has appeared that wasn’t there before. Add friend? She must have unfriended me as a prank. I smart at the cheek of her. Bitch! Add friend, my arse. She can add me.
Half-cocked, I flick through the photos on my phone, in search of answers. I find nothing useful. There are a few from early on last night, the usual posed group photos. Nothing out of the ordinary.
At the top of my page, the message box is blinking with one notification. I perk up. I love getting messages; it massages my ego. On the other hand, if someone doesn’t respond to a message promptly, I panic. In ten seconds, I can convince myself they hate me, I’ve offended them, and I will die alone. The scenario plays out in front of me, and I recoil. Beating myself up is my favourite hobby.
The message pops up on the screen. It’s Terry. We’ve been friends for years; he would’ve been there last night. My face falls on reading the first line.
Bex, where are you?
Confused, I read on.
You disappeared with him. Please come back. Don’t do this to us. To our friends. You are being completely selfish.
My heart starts to race, and blood rushes through my ears. Screwing my eyes shut, I try to remember what the hell happened last night. Nope, nothing.
What I can’t remember, my mind makes up. Never truly knowing what is real. I remember being in the bar. We were all there. Kelsey, Amy, Ben, Terry, and myself. Singing karaoke, I think. The boys were downing pints, and the girls, apart from Kelsey, were on the wine.
Kelsey and Ben don’t get out much, having two little ones and another on the way. When they go out, Ben goes big. The shots arrived…then nothing. I race through my memories: drinks, crisps, laughing, falling over. Pulling back my sheet reveals a purple bruise on my thigh. I fell again.
Fuck, what if I was drugged?
Every Sunday morning, I play the same game. What did I do last night? Then I try to convince myself my sinful behaviour was someone else’s fault. The answer normally lies in my newsfeed.
My brain starts to go over the evidence. Waking up to concerned messages and no social media posts means I have done something bad.
My head continues to pound. I need paracetamol. Lots of paracetamol. Bracing myself, I swing my legs out of bed and sit on the edge. The room spins. I swear the teddy my parents gave me for my eighteenth birthday is waving at me, his beady little eyes judging. That bloody bear is always taunting me.
Perhaps sitting up was not the best idea.
I’m debating whether standing up would be a near-death experience when a noise draws my attention to the other side of the bed. The sound is deep and throaty. Whilst praying I’m imagining it, the groan sounds again and my eyes widen.
Who is in my bed? Rubbing my eyes to clear away remnants of sleep, I hope he might disappear, a figment of my imagination.
A beautiful man is lying there—dead to the world—in my bed.
His back is to me, and his dark hair is messed up over the pillow. He wears it long. Not long enough to tie it back, but in a cool, relaxed look. Recognition washes over me. Not again. I put my head in my hands. Will I never learn?
My eyes move down the lean, muscular back. My breathing rises, and my heart tightens. I had promised myself I would not go back there. The last time was the final fling. My body shakes with panic. It happened again.
I have no self-control.
The sheet is pooled across his trim waist. Memories of him on top of me flash before my eyes, my greedy hands running down that taut, toned body, pulling him down onto the mattress with me. With guilt-filled eyes, I see his tattoo, a band around his upper arm. It’s a Celtic design that twists and turns—it’s a hundred percent recognisable. The name it incorporates, I know well. She’s a person I used to consider a close friend. A name loved by everyone, a name seen to never hurt a soul. Wholesome, honest, and trusting. A person who should be cherished, not cheated on.
He starts to fidget and reposition himself, attempting to get comfortable on the mattress. He flips over powerfully to face me, the strong body I am so familiar with on full display.
He is the most beautiful man I have ever seen; no one has ever come close.
Toned stomach muscles continue down from a broad chest that is smattered with dark hair. His happy trail leads to a place I have worshipped and yearned for.
Bright-blue eyes open sleepily, flying open when they see me. Shock changes to anger then fury as he realises where he is, who he is lying next to.
“Fuck, Bex, what happened? How did I get here? Did we fuck? Not again!”
Jumping out of the bed, wrapping the duvet around his waist in a feeble attempt to keep his dignity, he runs around the room, hauling discarded clothing into his arms. As he spins to face me, my heart sinks and tears burst to the surface. The dam is breaking and flowing free like so many times before.
His icy eyes lock onto mine, fixing me to the spot, his voice cold and dispassionate.
“Bex! Bloody answer me. What did we do?”
I drop my head in shame.
“Bex! Fucking tell me we didn’t!”
I shrug my shoulders, my emotions all over the place. What I want to say is “Of course we fucked, you absolute tool!”
But I can never bring myself to upset him.
I love him.
Any time with him is precious. Even though it cuts me to the bone that he regrets it and discards me like a used condom.
“How the fuck could you let this happen again?” he shouts.
Dr Benjamin Jones throws open my bedroom door and storms out of my apartment into the morning air, never to be seen again.
I crawl back under the covers and let the alcohol-induced tiredness engulf me as I drift back into a restless sleep.
I’ll deal with it tomorrow.
Boom! The shells explode overhead.
Crouching behind the wrecked car, I shoot my hands to my ears. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been on tour; the barbaric nature of the enemy astounds me. They blow up or take down civilians indiscriminately. The experience has been harrowing over the years—I will never fully come to terms with the memories.
Waking abruptly. Again.
Sweat pours from my brow. Again.
It was just a dream. Again.
Lying back on my bunk, I stare up at the cracked ceiling. The lines weave around the broken plaster, creating holes where sections have broken off and fallen onto my unsuspecting comrades fast asleep. The mattress is like concrete, the springs non-existent, and the sheets scratch my skin as I try to get comfortable.
Sleep is limited when you’re sharing a dorm with so many others. Someone always coughs or farts disturbing your peace at all hours. Rows of metal bunk beds squeak and creak as people move around, trying to be silent but failing miserably. Now that the clock is ticking, I can’t wait to get home.
Get home to my girls.
Baghdad in July is scorching. Today the mercury hit thirty-five degrees. We’re sitting around camp playing cards and talking complete nonsense. My comrades are always good company, but I’m relieved this tour is ending.
I’m ready to go home.
It has been tough, a lot tougher than the two tours before. Watching people get blown to bits was not something I expected when joining the British Army. Carrying women and children to safety after a suicide bomber had detonated his evil creation was a traumatic experience. The ones we got out were the lucky ones, and they weren’t all in one piece. As crazy as it sounds, signing up seemed the right thing to do. It’s what my father would have wanted. I never thought of the consequences.
Dog is playing poker with some American troops. He’s winning, his stance relaxed. Sitting back on his deck chair, legs spread wide with a towel barely covering his crotch. Fucking exhibitionist.
He holds the cards on his knee face down with a confident smile on his lips. It makes me want to punch him, and I’m his best friend.
“I’ve always wanted to be an American soldier,” he teases his competition. “At least I will be able to play dress-up at home. Now I’ve won the shirts off your backs.”
A huge grin spreads across his face and he laughs loudly. The other three players at the table all lift their eyebrows in unison at the joke, but there’s no humour in them. He’s pissing them off.
In a fight, Dog would never be able to take any of them, and no doubt my muscle would be needed. It wouldn’t be the first time, either.
The last time, in a bar in Derby, a few of us were having a drinking session before heading home from the barracks to our families in the morning. The place was jumping, people crammed in from wall to wall. Rows of different coloured bottles lined the shelves, and the menu was home to thousands of concoctions. Huge leather sofas were strewn around the warehouse-style room. At 8 p.m. the DJ started mixing the tunes, and the atmosphere rose with the music, strobe lights flying across our heads giving the whole place a mystic feel.
Dog had headed to the bathroom. He returned with a huge tattooed man in tow no less than six feet tall and the same width. He had Dog by the scruff of the neck as he deposited him at the table.
“Tell your asshole mate to keep his hands off my woman,” the giant spat out, “prick tried to run his hand up her skirt. Next time I’ll fucking amputate it for him.”
A smirk appeared across my friend’s face. I knew the consequences of whatever he said would not be good. Stay quiet, you fucking idiot. My glare tried to tell him silently to keep his mouth shut.
“Aye buddy, but she was fucking gagging for it,” Dog jibed.
My stomach dropped as Dog’s small body was hurled across the room at warp speed, bouncing off the wooden floor. How he didn’t snap in half I will never know. Taking my cue, I tapped the giant on the shoulder and dealt him one square punch to the jaw. He might be big, but I was bigger. Fully six foot four and built like a tank, not many guys will take me on. The giant crumpled in a heap with blood streaming from his mouth. Beaten, he scurried off back to where he came from.
All eight of us had then been escorted from the premises and told not to come back.
The Americans grumble angrily under their breaths after losing another hand. Dog’s chest puffs out another few inches. Clearly he’s enjoying the game.
The bald man, I think his name is Jake, shouts to me, “How can you be friends with this asshole? You’re one of us, bro! He’s literally stealing the shirts off our back.”
“Raised in the U.S but born in Scotland. Sorry bro, I’m British,” I tell him.
Rolling his eyes, he turns back to my friend. “So, asshole! What’s with the name? Dog?” he taunts. “Your missus lead you around by the balls?”
A wicked smile appears on Dog’s face. He loves telling stories about his name.
“No, no. There isn’t a Mrs Dog. Haven’t chosen the lucky bitch yet,” he says, “I’m just man’s best friend, that’s all.”
Shaking my head at his explanation, I return to my spot across from the game and wait for the battle to commence.
Dog never knows when to stop poking the bear. He forgets he is only five feet, built like a twig, and an army medic. Personally, him watching my back in a war zone would be concerning. He’d be too busy treating the enemy. Heart of gold but fucking useless in combat.
Looking at him, you wouldn’t think he would be a hit with the ladies, but he’s never short of company. His hair is short and spiked like a 1990s boyband member with a sharp-featured face and teeth that stick out at all angles. Beautiful he is not, but charisma he has in spades.
Dog is named Dog because he will fuck any bitch in heat.
A name well deserved.
When I was promoted to Major before this tour began, it was both an honour and unwelcome. Having one hundred and twenty men under my leadership has been daunting. I have absolutely taken on my new responsibility, and my duties are carried out to the best of my ability. But I don’t fucking want to be here.
After attending the Texas Military Institute through my high school years, I applied to join the prestigious Sandhurst Military School in England. Very few recruits are accepted straight out of high school, but the army is in my blood. My whole childhood was focused on me joining the armed forces. When the acceptance arrived, both my mother and I were stunned. She broke down in tears of joy.
“Your Paw would be so proud of you, son,” she told me.
She had kept her promise to him. He had told her that no matter what happened to him, it was her job to ensure that I follow in his footsteps into the military.
Joining the army had been inevitable. I completed my forty-four-week officers’ course at only twenty years old, then worked my way through the ranks successfully. The job came naturally to me—being an officer was part of who I was to be. The class numbers dwindled as the weeks passed, but I remained top of the leader board from week one until we completed the course.
I wanted to make my dad proud. He died in a military operation gone wrong when I was three, and his wishes passed through my mother are my only knowledge of him. Shot out the sky is what my mother told me, but we will never know if that’s the true story. He died a hero. That was what mattered to her.
After she lost him, my mother packed us up and moved us back to her homeland of Texas, United States. She had moved across the pond to Scotland after meeting my father and falling in love. I was a Scottish boy raised in America, but Scotland has always felt like where I should be. My first time returning to Aviemore, the small town where I was born, I immediately felt at home. Known for its mountains and skiing, the taverns were filled with merry people enjoying the scenery and sport.
That’s where I met Ainsley.
She was working behind the bar at the Cooray Inn. Petite and delicate, standing on a box behind the old wooden counter serving the punters. A wide smile from pale pink lips on creamy white skin greeted me as I approached her. Her long dark hair was pulled back into a relaxed ponytail, and she wore no makeup. A far cry from the American girls I was used to.
“What can I get you?” She smiled at me, her blue eyes bright with mischief.
Giving her my best sexy smile, I said, “Your number, preferably. Then a pint of whatever you recommend.”
She rolled her eyes at me, unimpressed. “Oh my word. I bet you don’t get given many numbers with that terrible chat.”
My jaw dropped open at her rebuke and she chuckled at my response.
“Where you from anyway? Here for the skiing? Need to get on the slopes soon, don’t think the snow will last,” she informed me.
When I pulled myself to my full height, she had to raise her eyes to meet mine. “No ma’am, born here, but moved to Texas with my maw when I was three. Back to serve Queen and country, based at Kinloss north of here. Just a pitstop on route to base.”
She nods and passes me my pint and her number. “Well, you enjoy that, soldier.”
“Hell bro! Put your cock away, will you!” an American barks. Looking up, I see Dog dancing and waving his towel around his head in victory. Idiot.
The card games are over. There have been no fights to referee.
It’s time to pack our bags. The carrier is collecting us at 04:00 tomorrow and will take us out of this godforsaken hellhole. After checking and double-checking my belongings, I’m certain nothing has been left behind.
I have no intention of ever coming back.
Gaining my honourable discharge from the army is on my mind–my contract completes next year. I’m unsure whether to renew, as the army is all I know and the thought of starting something new terrifies me. But another year here would be torture, never mind the three I would be expected to sign up for.
Twelve years committed to Her Majesty takes its toll on you personally as well as your family. I’ve missed a lot of my daughter growing up. Hannah is turning twelve this year, and I’ve only been to two of her birthday parties. My wife, Ainsley, fills the role of mother and father to the best of her ability, but she finds it difficult. Limited contact when I’m stationed thousands of miles away compounds the issue. Sometimes it feels like I don’t know them at all. The decision to hang up my boots will be good for my family. I will be able to fulfil my role as husband and father permanently.
My thoughts are interrupted by heavy footsteps appearing beside my bunk. “Major Lance McDonald?” the stern voice says.
I stand and salute the senior officer. “Yes, sir!”
He hands me a brown envelope addressed to me and excuses himself in the same manner. As I stare down at it my stomach sinks. Part of me really doesn’t want to open it. What if this inconspicuous letter slams the door shut on me getting out of here?
I will be fucking livid.
Slowly peeling back the flap to release the note inside, my nerves rise. Relief surges through me on reading the contents, a simple debrief with my commanding officer before we depart.
That I can do.
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