The Playboy's Proposal (Sorensen Family)(6)

By: Ashlee Mallory

He smiled and handed her back the clipboard. “Good. Just make sure you watch out for walls, doors, and low-hanging cabinets.”

“O-okay,” she mumbled as he walked away.

Kill me now.

Instead, she turned the doorknob and walked into the exam room, shutting the door behind her. She didn’t think she was going to leave it again. Ever.

Where was her usual quick wit and her ability to one-up any jibe, which she was famous for in her family? She was a basket case any time she got within ten feet of him.

The small scream from the five-year-old girl staring up at her brought her back to reality. Benny looked down over the paper towel still pressed to her nose to see the unmistakable bright red splattered over the front of her white lab coat.

Great. Now she’d terrified a kindergartener.

Please let this day end soon.

But the torture had really only begun when, after being sneezed on, hit in the face by a two-year-old who didn’t like the tongue depressor in his mouth, and dropping a container of cotton swabs after she tried to reverse direction when she spied Dr. Seeley again, she arrived at her parents’ home for her celebratory birthday dinner.

Not just any birthday, but the big 3-0.

She was officially old.

She walked into the kitchen where her mom and her sister, Daisy, were finishing preparations over the stove, and Kate, her sister-in-law, grated cheese. Kate was as helpless in the kitchen as Benny and was doing the task that Benny usually got stuck with. Arriving late had its benefits.

At seeing her daughter’s arrival, her mom wiped her hands on a towel and rushed over. “Feliz cumpleaños! Happy birthday,” she exclaimed, a sentiment echoed by Daisy and Kate before her mom kissed her and wrapped her small arms around her, squeezing tightly. “How’s my doctor daughter?” her mom asked and stepped back, beaming at her.

Benny flushed at the phrase, but she knew it was only because her mother was so proud that she used it whenever she talked to someone about her. Her friends, her dentist, their priest, and the clerk at the grocery store. “Good, Mama. A little tired thanks to the Hugh Hefner wannabe next door.”

Kate looked up from her task. “Uh-oh. Did your neighbor throw another party?” Kate had actually been over on one of the nights when Benny’s walls felt like they’d fall in from the music next door.

“Of course.” Benny slid onto the bar stool next to Kate and stuffed some of the cheese into her mouth. “He has no consideration for anyone but himself. I even had the luxury of meeting him last night.” In short order, she described the previous night’s events that led to her graceful exit. She didn’t share how she’d stewed another hour over the horrible jerk and kicked herself for not at least throwing on a robe or running a brush through her coarse, frizzy hair—particularly after she’d caught a glimpse of herself in the bathroom mirror.

Daisy laughed then covered her mouth quickly. “Sorry, Ben, I just wish I’d been there to see you march through the party in that getup.” She tossed her long, silky black hair over a shoulder, a vision as always in a white tank top and skinny jeans that clung to a slim figure—despite giving birth to three beautiful children. Daisy had always been a tough act to follow growing up. Especially when Benny had been the chubby tomboy without any of the style, grace, or prettiness of her older sister.

“Have you complained to the home owners’ association yet?” Kate asked. “I imagine there must be something in the CCR about noise control.”

“CCR?” Daisy asked.

“Covenants, codes, and restrictions,” Kate clarified. Benny’s sister-in-law also happened to be an attorney, something that had come in handy recently when Daisy was filing for divorce. “It’s basically a set of rules that all tenants or owners have to abide by, and violating those could end up in a fine.”

“I already called the board this morning,” Benny said and sighed as she remembered the woman’s indulgent tones when she mentioned Henry Ellison’s name. “I got the distinct impression they were just humoring me. He probably has them all wrapped around his well-manicured finger.”

“If you want, I can help you draw something up. Make them listen to you.”

Benny considered the offer. Kate had already done enough by helping Daisy, and Benny hated to take up any more of her time. “I just met him last night, and for now, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope things improve. But if not, I’ll give you a call. Thanks, Kate.” It was time to change subjects. Henry Ellison had already plagued too much of her time. “Has anyone heard from Cruz and Payton lately?” she asked, referring to her older brother and his new bride who were still on their honeymoon in Mexico.

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