“Simon, thank you so much for covering for me…”
“I know, I know. I’m so sorry.”
“Can’t keep doing it, Thea,” he warned, handing her a cup of coffee.
“Thanks.” She took the coffee gratefully. “I know. It’s my stupid car.”
“Get a new one, then.”
“Can’t afford it. I can’t manage without it and can’t afford to replace it.” She sighed. “I need to earn more.”
“Ask for a raise?”
She smiled ruefully. “Yeah, that will work.”
“Change your job?”
“I don’t know…”
“Why not try that clinic out of town? They are advertising for a medical resident.”
“It’s got a bit of a reputation, hasn’t it?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows? Rumors. And who cares if the money is good? That’s what you want, isn’t it?” He leaned toward her. “Look, if you can’t afford to live or at least afford a new car, you may find you need to give up your precious standards and bite the bullet.”
He raised his hands. “Hey, don’t have a go at me. I’m just saying… it’s true. You need to make some choices, Thea.” He got up. “Anyway, I’m off. The advert’s in the medical rag over there. No harm in looking.” He smiled and gave her a wink. “Enjoy your shift.”
“No worries. See you tomorrow. And give it some thought.”
She nodded. “See you.”
“Anna, get me a coffee, please. Black. Strong.”
“Of course, Doctor. Right away.”
He strode through the waiting room and into his office, closing the door. Throwing his notes onto the desk, he sank onto his chair with a tired sigh, his body aching with exhaustion. Draining day. Relentless pressure. The door opened and his secretary brought in that welcome coffee. He managed a smile. “Anna, you are a godsend.”
“I guess you haven’t eaten. You need to eat.”
“I know, I know. Soon. By the way, who is that young woman sitting out there?”
“She’s an applicant for the medic residency position you want to fill. She’s here for her scheduled interview. With you. I did remind you. Here is her CV.” She placed it next to his coffee on the desk.
He groaned. “I had forgotten. Difficult morning.”
“Do you want me to reschedule the interview?”
Tempting, but he shook his head.
“You are already running thirty minutes late… and you are lecturing in forty-five minutes.”
He smiled. “It just gets worse, doesn’t it? If I didn’t know better, I’d blame you for booking me up.”
“You bring it on yourself, Doctor. I’d happily try and spread your workload if you’d let me.”
“Impossible. It is what it is. We press on.” He leaned forward, took a gulp of coffee. “I’ll see her briefly now, see if she comes close to my requirements and take it from there. When am I free again later?”
“Four o’clock. In theory. I’ll keep it clear if you wish.”
“Do that. If I think she’s a possibility, I’ll finish the interview then.”
“Shall I send her in?”
He shook his head. “Give me five. Coffee first, brief look at the paperwork. Then I’ll see her.”
She raised an eyebrow. “She’s been waiting a while and…”
“I really do not care if she has,” he interjected. “Accept or leave. She’ll need to swing with the changes in the position she wishes to fill. Lack of flexibility is of no use to me.”
“Of course, Doctor. Buzz me when you are ready.”
Finishing the coffee, he picked up her CV. A quick glance would have to suffice. Flicking through, he absorbed any relevant information. Female. Qualifications adequate. Little experience in the field of sexual dysfunction but then most medics were regrettably lacking in knowledge of the field. No matter. Trainable if she was prepared to learn. He gathered the papers together. Time to find out more. He glanced at the clock. Ten minutes. Enough for a quick assessment. He pressed the intercom. “Send her in, please, Anna.”
Seconds later the door opened. He got up and walked around his desk to meet her, smiling and offering his handshake. “Good afternoon, Dr. Day. I’m Dr. Matteo Bruno, chief clinical director. Apologies for keeping you waiting. Please take a seat.”
She greeted him confidently enough and sat down opposite him as he returned to his seat. He glanced up at her, studying her face and demeanor, looking for strength, confidence, desire for the job. She was well dressed and attractive—always interesting.
“Dr. Thea—if I may call you that.” He looked into her eyes and paused while he searched for any hesitation in her resolve, any slip in her confidence. She held his gaze. There was depth in her eyes, but also vulnerability. Weakness? Fear? “Tell me why you are interested in this position.”
Thea took a deep breath. She wanted this job. “Honestly? I love being a medic but I need to progress and I need better pay. I need better remuneration for the time I have been studying and for the commitment I give the job and I think that is a fair and reasonable expectation.”
The money draw. Well, at least she was honest, he thought. Seemed sincere and committed.
“Are you aware of the work we do here?”
She nodded. “I have heard it’s mainly in the field of sexual dysfunction? But there seems to be little information other than that.”
He nodded. “Agreed. We maintain a high level of privacy for our clients…”
“Clients?” Thea was puzzled.
He explained carefully. “A high percentage of people we see here are here out of choice… and they prefer to be clients rather than patients—for the most part, at least.” He paused, waiting for her to make a connection. “They like—enjoy—the treatment we give here, how we care for them.”
Now she thought she understood. “Is that ethical?”
He nodded. “Entirely. We work to the book. Still interested?” He observed her intently. “Let me make this clear. This clinic is important to me. The work we do is invaluable to those we treat. I only want the best of medics with the highest level of commitment. We need not continue this interview if you are unable—unwilling—to fulfill my requirements.” He waited.
“Oh, no, I would like to continue,” she said hurriedly.
“We certainly lack for nothing in facilities and equipment. But there are many other areas of medicine to explore—why choose this one?” He watched her shift uncomfortably in her chair.
“Well… the salary looks good…” she smiled lamely. “And, anyway, sexual dysfunction has got to be interesting, right?”
He did not return her smile. Maybe she was doubtful for selection. But he needed medics urgently. “I will excuse your flippancy—for now, but it has been noted,” he said coolly. He leaned back in his chair and observed her, then glanced down at her CV thoughtfully. Eventually he leaned toward her across the desk.
“Right. I have little time to continue this now but, at this point, I am provisionally interested in taking you on. I need medics. However, I wish to conclude this interview later today. Let’s say four p.m.?”
She nodded. “That’s fine. Thank you.”
“Excellent. Incidentally, what was not mentioned in the vacancy advert was that an apartment and a car go to the successful candidate. My secretary will arrange for you to look at the apartment in the interim couple of hours. I hope this is acceptable to you.” He got up to leave. “I shall leave you with Anna and see you later. Contracts will be ready at that point although you may, of course, decline if you have a change of heart. I will go through any details then.”
He shook hands with her and left the room. She followed him out.
“Anna, I will see Dr. Thea back here at four o’clock. Please arrange for contracts to be here. And if you could arrange for her to see the apartment and the facilities before then, that would be great.” He turned and nodded to her before striding off.
Thea could feel her shoulders relax after he had left and she let her breath go. She had not realized how shallow her breathing had become. She wanted this job and it was almost in the bag. At least she thought it was.
Anna smiled at her. “He’s rather full-on, I’m afraid. Intense.”
Charismatic, thought Thea. And unnervingly handsome.
“You get used to it. Looks like he is going to offer you the job, if you want it.”
Thea nodded. “Oh, yes. It was just a strange interview. I mean, he didn’t ask many questions.”
“He knows what he wants, he acts… and deals with any fallout later.”
“Seems a bit of a maverick.”
“You could say that. But he is an excellent doctor, thoughtful and caring. Now, would you like to see the apartment?”
Thea brightened. “Yes, please. An apartment and a car. That’s amazing.”
“He generally thinks perks are irrelevant… and maybe he is right.”
“Right now, it means a lot to me. My car has broken down and my flat is pretty rubbish.”
“Well.” She pulled open a drawer and took out some keys, handing them to Thea. “These are the keys to the apartment and the car. The car is the blue convertible in the driveway, you can see through the window.”
Thea walked over and glanced across the drive. She gasped. “It’s gorgeous!” she whispered. “Are you sure it goes with the job? I mean, I know you are but… it’s unbelievable.”
“Well, it’s yours if you get the job. The apartment is across the driveway in that white building.”
“On the clinic campus?”
Anna nodded. “Requirement of the job, that you live on the campus and are always available for duties. You will have to accept that. And the duties. Anyway, go and look at it, see what you think. You have about two hours. Get a coffee at the clinic restaurant—here is a guest pass.”
Thea took it and hung it around her neck. “Thank you.”
“Enjoy your look around. Back here promptly at four o’clock.”
Two hours later she was back in his waiting room. The car and the apartment were a dream. The clinic was modern and sumptuous in every way. Now she was really nervous. She wanted the job. She wanted the car and the apartment. He strode in, making her jump.
“Dr. Thea, please come in again. Anna, did you manage to get a contract drawn up?”
“Yes, Doctor. It is on your desk.”
He nodded his thanks. “Let’s get this done then, Thea.” He held the door open for her. “Take a seat.”
His brusqueness was intimidating.
He sat down and briefly looked at the papers in his desk, then looked up at her and smiled.
“Well, the job is yours if you want it, Thea.”
She beamed with relief. “Oh, thank you. I very much want it.”
He stood up and reached over the desk, extending his handshake. “Congratulations. I take it you approved of the facilities, the car and apartment?”
She nodded. “Perfect. Lovely.” She felt frustratingly tongue-tied. His directness was disarming. And his charisma was almost overpowering. She felt like a little girl instead of a competent medic.
“Right, the details in brief. The salary you are aware of. Your employment will initially be for three months unless I decide otherwise. You will be expected to take part in all aspects of the clinic when called upon to do so without question. And be resident on campus and available at all times. No leave is to be taken within this three-month period. You will be given all necessary training as I know you have limited experience in this field. Of course, full discretion and patient confidentiality is expected; any deviation from this will mean instant dismissal. Any questions so far?”
“No, that all seems fine.”
“Good. I expect you to start at 9.00 a.m. on Monday. You will have the weekend to move in.”
“Oh.” She was taken aback. “I have to give the hospital a month’s notice… and I need to sort out my flat… so Monday is too soon.”
He read her notes. “You work at the Fairview Hospital?”
“I will see to it,” he said dismissively. “I will speak to them. Be here at nine. Your flat is your problem to resolve if you want the job. I need medics that can adjust to change as needed, starting from day one. Still interested?”
“If you are sure you can speak to the hospital…”
“I am not in the habit of giving assurances without foundation, Dr. Thea,” he said coolly.
She looked down at her hands. “I’m sorry. Of course not. I shall be here on Monday.”
“Excellent,” he smiled. “If you have any unforeseen additional expenses with regard to your present flat, the clinic will cover them.”
“That’s very kind.”
“Not at all. I expect a lot from you and you have a right to expect good care in return.” He turned his attention to the contract papers and signed them with practiced confidence, then turned them around for her signature. “Please sign here.”
“This is all very quick,” hesitated Thea. “I haven’t even read it…”
“I work with absolute trust and integrity. Medical practice, at least in this clinic, cannot function without either, for patients and staff. So you need have no doubts or concerns about signing the contract now. I cannot be dealing with delays.”
Thea knew she should be cautious, probably should insist on reading it first, but she wanted to take a chance. He did seem so convincing. She signed it and pushed it back over the desk to him. It was done.
“Good.” He gathered the papers together. “I’m sure you will enjoy your time here. Now, all that remains is your medical.”
“Medical? I was not aware that would be necessary.”
“Necessary for all members of staff.” He looked up at the clock. “I have time to do that now for you myself so I can complete the sign-off of the contract today. Then all is in order. Are you able to stay a little longer? Shouldn’t take long.”
What could she say? She had not expected a medical and did not want one. But he was now her boss… and did not like delays. She was not due back at the hospital. “Of course. Thank you. If you have the time…” she said nervously.
“Not a problem. Anna will tell you what to do.” He pressed the intercom. “Anna, could you come and help Dr. Thea prepare for her medical, please? I shall conduct it myself.”
Moments later Anna came in, smiling. “Congratulations, Dr. Thea. Welcome to the clinic.”
“I’ll leave you to it, Anna. Give me a shout when Thea is ready.” He looked over to Thea. She looked anxious. “Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you,” he reassured with a grin.
“I know. Just wasn’t expecting it.”
“Soon be over. I’ll see you in a few minutes.” He left the room.
Anna took over. “Come with me, then, Thea. The examination room is just through here.”
She led the way and Thea followed reluctantly. The room was ultra-modern with the best medical equipment, which gleamed.
“Wow! This is impressive.” She looked around, taking it all in. “Any medic would love this.”
“Well, you are on the other side of the fence for now. There is a gown on the exam table. If you just remove all your clothes and slip it on. Put your clothes on the chair over there.”
“Do I have to remove all my clothes? I thought this was just a quick check?”
“The doctor would expect you to remove all your things… but maybe keep your panties on if you would feel more comfortable? Maybe that will be enough.”
“Yes. Thank you. I would feel better.”
“No problem. Just sit up on the table when you are done.”
She removed her clothes and slipped on the gown. “I guess I’m ready,” she said without enthusiasm, hitching herself up onto the table.
“That’s great. I’ll give the doctor a buzz. He won’t be long.” She smiled reassuringly and patted Thea’s hand. “Don’t look so worried. Think of the great job you’ve landed—and that gorgeous car!”
Thea tried to smile. “Right now I’d rather not be here. It didn’t occur to me there’d be a medical, and I’m not really ready for one.”
“When was your last one?”
“Ages ago. A year or more?”
“I’ll tell the doctor so he is aware you are feeling a little anxious. Now, I must be off. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon. Good luck with the new job.”
“Thank you. And thanks for your help.”
She did not have to wait long.
“Right. Anna tells me it has been some time since you had a medical?”
“How long is ‘some time’?”
“I… I can’t really remember…”
“Before medical school? During your studies?” he queried.
“A comprehensive exam would be in order, then.”
“I guess so.”
He looked at the medical history form she had submitted with her CV. “Nothing untoward here in your history or family history. No surgeries. Pregnancies? Terminations?”
She shook her head.
“Good.” He put the notes down and picked up a tongue suppressor. “Let’s get started. Open wide.”
He pushed down on her tongue to look at her throat. She gagged as he pushed further back but he made no apologies for his firmness. He looked around her mouth, her teeth, and her gums.
“All clear,” he remarked, almost to himself. He pulled her eyelids down and made her look in all directions while he examined her eyes. The light was painfully bright. Next were her ears and he shone a light up her nose. After making notes, he moved behind her.
“I’m just going to feel the back of your neck, your shoulders, and your spine.” He placed his hands on her shoulders and began to feel the muscles and bones beneath her skin.
She tensed at his touch.
“Try not to tighten, Thea. Your muscles are almost rigid in your shoulders and back.” He pushed her gown to each side, exposing her back and moved his fingers down both sides of her spine, probing.
“That hurts.” She winced as his fingers found knots of tension.
“Mmm. Do you exercise at all? Yoga? Anything?”
She shook her head again. “No time.”
“You mean you have devoted all your mind and body to work and study.” A statement rather than a question.
“Yes, I suppose I have.”
“You’re a doctor. You should have more sense,” he reprimanded.
“Life isn’t always that clear, is it?” She tried to turn to look at him.
“Health is everything. As well you know… or should know. Without health you have less of a life. Less enjoyment, less productivity, less choices. More boundaries. Less freedom. I could go on.”
“Yes, well, sometimes in life you have to make choices,” she countered.
He ignored her and took up his stethoscope, placing it on her back, listening to her lungs. “Deep breaths, please.” He moved all over her back, then moved around the table in front of her. “Slip your gown down, please.” He turned aside to make notes.
She dropped her gown but left it so it still covered her nipples. She looked away, blushing.
He turned his attention back to her. “You have a problem exposing your breasts?” he queried.
“I… don’t like to…”
“This is a medical, Thea. I need to do certain examinations, which I should hardly have to explain to you.”
“I know, I know.” She felt flustered. “I suppose I wasn’t prepared for this…”
He sighed, then placed the stethoscope on her chest, listening. She was thankful that he did not push the gown lower. She was young and fit so this would soon be over and she could go home.
He stepped back. “Right. If you could lie down, please, on your back.”
Not over yet, though, she thought. She lay back, pulling the gown back up again.
“Now, I’m going to lower your gown to your waist so I can examine your breasts…no nonsense, please.” He reached up to her shoulders and slipped the gown down, exposing her breasts, before she could protest. She swallowed hard. No one had seen her breasts for so long. Her nipples hardened and pushed upward. He looked down at them, examining them with his eyes. Then his hands were upon them, feeling, rolling her flesh, pushing her nipples this way and that. Then her right breast alone and next her left. Pushing them together and pushing them up. She could feel her body easing with the intimacy of his probing and the softness of his warm hands
“Any discharge from your nipples?” He looked into her eyes as he pinched her nipples with his fingers and thumb.
She caught her breath. “No,” she whispered.
“Any pain? Episodes of mastitis? Cysts?”
“No, I have never had any problems.”
“Excellent.” He removed his hands. “You have well-formed breasts, Thea. Good nipples, good responses.”
“Oh, good. I’ve always been self-conscious about… my nipples.”
“Why?” He watched her.
He was so disarmingly direct. “Because they are big… and prominent… stick out,” she said with embarrassment. This was hard to talk about.
He reached out and squeezed her hand. “Hey, don’t worry so much. Let’s move on. As you are concerned, you may cover your breasts.”
Gratefully she pulled up her gown. At the same time, he flung a blanket over her legs and began to pull the gown up past her waist, exposing her abdomen. Once more his hands were exploring her flesh, pushing deeply into her stomach, around her waist, under her ribcage, and around into her back.
“Loosen your muscles, Thea. Don’t resist.” He smiled at her. “Hard being on the other side of things? Patient instead of doctor?”
She nodded. “I thought this was just a job interview.”
“I like to be thorough from the outset.”
He pushed the blanket lower down and started to push her panties down. She flinched and instinctively tried to resist.
“They are coming down, Thea. I need to examine your genitals. Ordinarily your panties would not be on for a full medical.”
“I came for an interview,” she protested.
He paused and looked at her. “I am happy to stop now if you wish but it would negate your contract. What do you want to do? I have little time for protests.”
She looked up at his determined face. It was evident that there was no point of compromise. She could get up and walk and end this embarrassment or surrender to the indignity. Not getting this job now would be too awful. She had already been imagining her new life with the car and apartment and to see the dream crushed now before it had even begun would be gut-wrenching.
“I’m sorry. I want to carry on,” she said in a small voice.
“Then remove your panties and let me examine you,” he said firmly.