The Rebel

By: Victoria Purman

Their friendship had grown strong and solid over the years and Maggie had decided it was the perfect arrangement. Friends was so much easier than lovers, and she wasn’t that gypsy she’d once been. She couldn’t fly off to exotic locations on a whim, and she certainly couldn’t sleep with a man simply because he was tall and tanned and charming. That wasn’t her life anymore.

All of that history meant she could get angry at him and he would understand. Friends could do that with friends. Cooper shouldn’t expect anything less.

Because she was going to get angry at him. Cooper Malone was going to feel the full-on wrath of Maggie MacLean.

And it was going to be ugly.

Chapter Two

Cooper gingerly dropped his legs over the side of the bed and checked out each of the four walls in the vain hope they’d miraculously become more interesting since the last time he looked. Nope, they hadn’t. He was feeling stir-crazy. Some interior designer had obviously figured pale green would be calming to patients, but it reminded Cooper of toothpaste. The drapes on the windows were the same shade as the walls and the view was of the car park. Hanging on the wall opposite the bed was an anonymous watercolour painting of a dense forest with snow-capped mountains in the background; he’d spent two mind-numbing days wondering if it was Montana, Colorado, Switzerland or Canada. Why hang a picture like that in a hospital in Southern California? It baffled him. The wall-mounted TV in the corner hadn’t had enough sports for his liking, so he’d barely turned it on. On a whitewashed sideboard to his right sat a huge bunch of flowers sent by his twin brother Callum and Ava, Cal’s fiancée.

Cal’s message on the card read:

What next—a Zimmer frame? Get well fast, bro.

Cooper needed the laugh. Hell, he needed more than that. He needed to get out of here. Why wasn’t anything in this damn room blue? This was San Clemente, the Spanish village by the sea, for God’s sake. It had the Pacific Ocean. Great waves. The pier. The sun, which was so much like the climate back home in Australia that sometimes the only things that reminded him he wasn’t in Sydney were the lanky palm trees and the white stucco buildings with the terracotta tiled roofs. But this room, with its forests and green, could be any hospital room anywhere in the world. He knew: he’d seen more than a couple.

And he couldn’t wait to get out of it. From his house, he could see the water and blue as far as the eye could see. He could spot when the surf was up. That’s where he wanted to be right now, instead of perched on the side of his bed wondering if his knee would hold up if he put any weight on it.

Dr Alvarez stood by him, her hands on her hips. ‘Want me to help you?’

Cooper shook his head. ‘I’ve been standing on these legs since I was twelve months old, I’ll have you know Doc. So that makes it a thirty-three years they’ve been doing their job.’

She tut-tutted. ‘And how many years of surfing in all that?’

Cooper looked up at the Doc through the flop of his blond hair. ‘Twenty-two.’

She tut-tutted again and he knew what was coming but he didn’t want to hear it. ‘You’ve had a long time to do a lot of damage, Cooper. It’s catching up with you. You’re not a young man anymore.’

Cooper huffed. ‘You sure know how to kick a bloke when he’s down.’

She rested a reassuring hand on her patient’s shoulder. ‘Cooper. I’ve been a doctor for as long as you’ve been a surfer. We all get old. Unfortunately for you, that left knee of yours is slightly older than the rest of you, after years of overuse and twisting and grinding.’

He raised an eyebrow. ‘What do you know about surfing?’

‘You can’t live in San Clemente and not know about surfing.’ Dr Alvarez shrugged and gave him a smile. ‘I used to surf before I lost my nerve.’

‘Oh Doc, you’ve gotta get back out there.’

‘Not anymore.’ She reached out her hand to him. ‘You want me to pull you up?’

Cooper shook his head. ‘I can do this.’ Gingerly, he put all his weight on his right leg and slowly lowered his left to the floor. A hot rush hit him from head to toe and throbbed everywhere in between. ‘Holy fuck,’ he exclaimed and dropped his butt back on the bed. He wiped the sweat from his top lip with his forearm. ‘Sorry about the cursing, Doc.’

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