A Cocky Hero Club Novel
Magnetic Medic is Book 1 in a series inspired by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward’s British Bedmate. It is published as part of the Cocky Hero Club world, a series of original works, written by various authors, and inspired by Keeland and Ward’s New York Times bestselling series.
To find out more about all the Cocky Hero Club World books and authors, visit: www.cockyheroclub.com.
A sexy, new brother’s best friend romance from USA Today bestselling author Alexa Padgett.
He’s my brother’s childhood friend. I’m pregnant with another man’s baby. What a time to fall in love…
Coming home seemed like a good idea at the time. My ex-fiancé split, I was almost done with my master’s degree, and I was already working at the family architecture firm. When I move in next door to pediatrician Ryder Mackay, I’m not expecting the connection—or the passion in his eyes that I feel deep in my soul. He’s the best doctor for my baby, but he’s not the guy I need.
Still, the way Ryder looks snuggling my puppy—and my infant daughter—to his rock-hard chest makes me wish this sexy, smart, compassionate man was mine.
Maybe, it’s pregnancy hormones. Or…maybe this magnetic pull is forever.
I stood in my new condo, my first home and my present to myself this holiday season. Placing my hands on my ever-expanding bump, I took in the sparkling white appliances and mellow oak floors that created a seamless transition from dining, living, and kitchen areas.
Satisfaction bubbled up as I took in my accomplishments…until that niggling pang of loss slammed into me. Jeff should be here. Rather, I should still be in Houston, as we’d planned. But my plans no longer included Jeff or Houston.
I focused on my home—my own home. I’d waited a couple of months to buy because this specific condo had two bedrooms and it was the last to be completed, so no more workers would be traipsing through the building—a security consideration necessary for a young, single woman.
Nico, my oldest brother, set down a box and glanced around the room. “You’re hustling on emptying those boxes,” he said.
“I have to,” I replied. “You carry them up so fast.”
“I’m up five boxes on you, Nico,” Knox, my middle brother, taunted. “You’re getting soft, old man.”
I smiled at Nico’s scowl as he slid out of my door. Those two had always been competitive. I hoisted the box onto the kitchen counter, ignoring Knox’s protests, and began unpacking it.
“Don’t you have more to bring in?” I asked. “I’m almost done in here, so I’m unpacking faster than you’re hauling, old man.” I winked at Knox’s frown. Those two were so easy to rile up. My brothers were tall and broad, but Nico’s hair was the color of an acorn instead of Knox’s honey-blond. They both had piercing eyes, though in different shades of gray, and long lashes from our mother.
Nico ran in with two boxes, which he set down, then dashed back outside. I laughed even as I cut through the tape and started pulling out my bakeware.
Fine. I was just as competitive as my brothers.
Knox set another box on the floor near the dishwasher, which I began to load with the bread pans I’d pulled out from the box Nico had brought up.
I might be back in the frozen tundra of Providence the week after Christmas, and I might be pregnant and alone, but I would finish my master’s degree, and I would definitely make something more of myself than the single mother cliche Jeff seemed to think I’d become.
I was more than he gave me credit for, and I was so not going to be a cliché. I might have moved back to my home town but I’d jumped back into my research on eco-friendly interior architectural elements last month and had stacks of research for my thesis. Once my brothers left, I’d pull it out and start writing.
“We’ll get the last of your stuff on this trip,” Nico said.
Nico had always been my champion, and since my parents died, my father figure. Seven years my senior, he’d been forced to grow up too soon and continued to act like a stuffy middle-aged man instead of a cool business owner of thirty-one. Of course, since he’d had to slide into the parent role, he was not the first person I’d wanted to tell that I’d just found out I was pregnant and that Jeff left me—all in the same day. And he wasn’t, but none of my friends in Houston had any experience with my current situation. In fact, they’d all been more freaked out than I was.
I’d broken down the next day and called Nico, hoping he’d be the brother I needed—not the one I’d left behind with a huge sigh of relief when I drove to Houston to attend Rice University. Nico had been silent for a couple of breaths before he asked me what I wanted to do.
I’d opened my mouth, but no words came out.
“Come home,” he’d said. “You can work for Wright and Associates.”
“Come home, and you’ll work with us. Just like I’d always planned. Like Dad wanted. We need another full-time architect, especially with your eye for the interior. Eco-design is a growing field. You’re an asset, Aidy. Plus, you’re technically a partner already.”
Technically. Because our dad left the firm to all of us, equally.
Nico had rattled off a sum that was substantially higher than my current salary, one that would let me buy my own place and pay for childcare.
“And you can stay with me and I’ll help you find a place to live.”
The silence was long, but eventually, he said, “Yes.”
So, I packed up my bags and drove out of Houston’s muggy heat and headed back north—back to the brother I’d been more than glad to leave six years ago.
My brothers dropped the last of my boxes inside my new digs.
“You win,” I said with a sigh. “I couldn’t get all the boxes in here unpacked as fast as you could carry them.”
Knox gave me a side hug. “Well, you were destined to lose since we had to bring them in for you to unpack.”
I smiled. Knox might be the most competitive, but he also had a big, soft heart, and I loved him for that.
“I think you’ll like it here, and you’re growing your net worth,” Nico said. He settled on my sofa and threw his arm across the back, looking around with satisfaction. “You were smart to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Yep. Old man banker talk right there. Nico needed a life.
My smile widened as I pulled muffin tins from the box. I’d dealt with all the paperwork from the bank and mortgage company myself. I’m sure Nico would have helped, but I needed to prove I could handle my finances. And I did it. At twenty-four, I owned my own place and was a partner in a well-known architectural firm.
Granted, buying a condo was beneficial for all of us. I’d lived in Nico’s guest room for the past few months, which threw our typical ignore-each-other coping mechanisms into disarray. I might have asked Knox instead, but he’d been a grumbly mess since the Melinda Incident, and I decided to take my chances with Nico.
My oldest brother put up with my books scattered around his pristine bungalow, and he’d been correct that I should wait for a space that I loved, even as he frowned at my personal items littering his living room. Once again, I smiled at my new living space—that pride of homeownership bubbling up through my tummy.
The sensation spread through my midsection again. Not happiness. My daughter. I’d found out last week at my checkup that I was having a girl.
I gasped, tears springing to my eyes. Both my brothers jumped off the couch, faces tight in concern.
“It’s fine,” I murmured, blinking back the wetness as I smiled. I touched my tummy. “She’s moving. I hadn’t really felt it before.”
“I hope she takes after her Uncle Knox and loves to ice skate,” Knox said.
“If you take her to the rink, she probably will,” I said.
“Like Dad did with me. I’m going to turn her into the hockey-lover you never were,” Knox said.
He grinned wider. He moved to the fridge and pulled out a beer I’d stored in there when I’d arrived this morning, raising another to Nico, who nodded.
I closed the overflowing dishwasher and set it to start, thankful most of my dishes: glasses, mugs, and silverware would soon be clean and stored in the appropriate cabinets and drawers.
Knox tugged at a chunk of my hair that had escaped my ponytail, his easy-going smile masking the pain that always bubbled up when we discussed our parents.
“You found a cool place.”
“I like it. I’m glad it was within my budget.”
“We’ll have to pay you more once you finish up that thesis.” Knox glanced down at my belly, his brows tight in the start of a scowl.
“If I finish my thesis,” I said. Because I hadn’t managed to do so last semester, as I’d hoped. Nico freaked out when I told him I wanted to take a leave of absence, flat-out refusing to let me work at the family firm—and get the internship credits I needed to complete my degree—if I didn’t promise I’d finish my thesis course.
He’d been right to push me, but that last email from my advisor still sent shame coursing through me. I refused to meet Knox’s eyes because I didn’t want him to know my advisor called me out on my lackluster performance since September. His comments were deserved since I’d spent my first few weeks barely able to file documents without sniffling.
But this was the new Aidy. I was strong, capable. No longer a weepy disaster who let a man’s rejection keep me from achieving my goals. And I planned to prove I could ace my thesis, starting tonight. As soon as my brothers left.
“I ordered pizza as a thank you,” I said. “But then I’m kicking you out. I want to work on my thesis.”
“I could eat,” Knox said, making us all laugh.
“You can always eat, Mr. Former Cornell Hockey Star,” I said.
When the knock on my door came, I elbowed both my brothers back, refusing to let them pay for the pizza. I opened the door with a triumphant laugh.
The pizza delivery kid was flustered by my belly. “Can you carry these?” he asked.
He held the four boxes of pizza away from me.
“I’m pregnant not an invalid,” I said, with a smile. I mean, he was a teenager, barely old enough to drive, and I guessed I should be glad he was looking out for me. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t give him some gentle advisement on independent women.
“And last time I checked, pizza wasn’t as heavy as my purse or my briefcase that I manage to carry all by myself each day.”
“Right,” the kid stuttered, his cheeks flushing.
I kept my smile in place to take the sting out of my words. I heard a snort as I grabbed the boxes from the delivery guy and handed him the cash. He ambled off, giving me a clearer view of a man stopped at the door across the hall.
The guy turned to smirk at me. His nose and chin reminded me of the Spanish-Moroccan model, Abdel Abdelkader, the Men’s Health model who’d created a juicing empire. I had bookmarked that issue. For the article on juicing, of course.
After I managed to move past that chiseled jaw, his eyes snagged my attention. They weren’t gray and they weren’t green, but a light, interesting combination of the two—like the underbelly of a new sage leaf. The color popped all the more against his tanned skin.
He smiled, those firm pink lips parting enough for me to catch the white teeth behind the fuller, lower, totally bitable one, and my gaze dropped to the dimple. Only one. On the left side, leaving a groove in his cheek. The faintest hint of dark scruff shadowed his mouth and chin, letting me know he’d shaved earlier but that he could grow that delicious scruff if he went away with a woman for the weekend.
“Aidy?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, meeting Mr. Tall, Dark, and Oh-so-handsome’s gaze. “Who are you…I know you, I think.” I blinked again. Those eyes. He looked familiar, and his smile seemed intimate, like I shouldknow him, but I couldn’t place him.
He tilted his head. “You do. I’m Ryder Mackay. I lived down the street from you…” he trailed off, his face freezing in a partial grimace. He cleared his throat. “That was a long time ago. I moved when you were in, like, kindergarten, maybe? You look the same.” He smiled.
My breath caught in my throat. He was better looking than Abdel. Maybe a bit taller, definitely more chiseled…at least the parts I could see.
I wanted to tuck a thick strand of hair behind my ear but I was holding the pizza boxes. “Um. Thanks, I guess.”
“Yeah, it was the hair that caught my attention,” he said with a laugh.
I was a true strawberry blonde—emphasis on the strawberry. People tended to do double-takes when they saw me for the first time. For the most part, I enjoyed the attention. Nico complained I was both the moth and the flame.
“How are you?” Ryder asked. His gaze dropped to my tight T-shirt—tight because I hadn’t bothered to buy maternity clothes. My boobs looked good in it, but it also showed off my bump, which was where Ryder’s gaze slid. For some reason, I didn’t like the brown-haired god staring at my obvious baby belly—and learning about my failed relationship.
But I didn’t know him, so why should I care? Still, as I leaned against the doorframe, I settled the pizzas in front of my belly, blocking his view.
“I’m okay. So, you knew Nico or Knox?”
“Knox and I played in the tree fort your dad built. Or on the beach. Nico was too cool to hang out with Knox and me.”
“Oh! You’re the boy who moved to Boston,” I said, remembering some long-ago conversations about Knox’s bestie who’d gone to live with his aunt.
“And you’re the little girl who loved to play with crabs,” he said with a chuckle.
I wrinkled my nose. “My finest moments,” I said, my tone dry.
His smile widened. “I liked catching them with you. In fact, I was the one who taught you because Knox was always afraid they’d bite him.”
We shared a smile. I felt a pang in my chest.
“I wish I could remember that,” I said.
“Who are you talking to?” Nico opened the door wider.
“I was trying to invite—”
Nico followed my gaze and his eyes widened. “Ryder? Is that you?”
“Dude!” Knox called, his voice barreling into my ear. “Come in here. We need to catch up.”
Nico took the boxes from me as Knox enveloped Ryder in a bear hug. I hovered in my doorway, unsure whether to follow or back up and give the guys time to reconnect.
“It’s damn good to see you. It’s been…”
Ryder’s gaze touched on mine before he met my brother’s. “Close to twenty years.”
“Yeah. Man. Time flies. What have you been up to? I think I heard from someone in the old neighborhood that you went to medical school.”
Ryder nodded. “I just finished my residency and took a position at a clinic nearby.”
“Come inside Aidy’s new place. You can tell us about your job and everything.”
I wanted to throw up my hands in frustration. Sure, I planned to feed my brothers but then they were supposed to leave immediately after so I could get on with my thesis—not find a long lost friend and stay for hours catching up.
“What’s your specialty?” Knox asked.
“Pediatrics,” Ryder said.
“You’re a pediatrician?” Nico asked. He raised his brows, his gaze boring into me. Yes, yes, I heard that this old chum was a baby doctor. I glanced at Ryder’s hand, noting he wasn’t wearing a ring.
Hot baby doc was single. I bet that made for lots of happy mommies.
“Excellent!” Knox said. “You hear that, Aidy? Ryder’ll take care of your baby.”
I smiled a little in their direction but didn’t bother to reply. Ryder’s eyes had widened, and he seemed a bit overwhelmed that Knox was planning out my life.
Welcome to the world of baby sister with two overprotective brothers, Ryder. The path is always bumpy.
“Hey,” Knox said, noticing the consternation that had to be stamped on my face. I had a plan—feed them and get them out so I could realize the new Aidy’s dream of a completed master’s degree.
“Do you need to sit down?” Knox asked.
I shook my head. “I’m fine. Just need to pee.”
Knox wrinkled his nose and disappeared into my kitchen. Oh, god. I said that in front of Ryder. My gaze darted to his and his laughing eyes met mine.
Ryder leaned in closer as Knox made a disgusted sound. “I don’t think you three have changed much in twenty years.”
“I don’t think we have either,” I whispered back. “But, still, I shouldn’t have said that in front of you.” My cheeks flamed.
He chuckled. “I’m a doctor, Aidy, one who deals with babies. Pee is pretty much a constant in my life.”
Knox called out, asking if Ryder wanted a beer. He raised his eyebrows to me, and I appreciated his silent question even as it annoyed me. Ryder seemed nice enough, and he was good looking, but I’d bought this place because I wanted to live alone.
I needed to prove that I could. And I would, just as I’d complete my thesis and get my degree.
When I returned to the living area, my brothers were already snarfing down food—without plates or napkins. I cringed at my brothers’ boorishness and beelined to the kitchen for paper towels I’d already slid onto the under cabinet rod I’d attached earlier.
See? New Aidy was organized. Adult. Responsible.
All the words Nico would have never used to describe me even a couple of years ago.
“Where’s your friend?” I asked. Ryder. Not like I’d forget his name. He was the most attractive guy I’d met in ages.
Nico chewed his bite before he answered. He even grabbed a napkin and wiped his fingers and lips.
“He had to go up to the hospital. Apparently, he’s set up a baby-cuddler program for the ICU.”
Ryder, the hot guy with the fabulous eyes, cuddled babies. Pretty much all my insides melted at the mental image.
“I got his card for you. And he’s going to stop by tomorrow to make sure you’re all set,” Knox said.
“He doesn’t need to do that,” I murmured.
“He said he wanted to,” Knox said, ripping me from my fantasy of Ryder, shirtless, a cherubic-faced girl resting against his powerful chest. At least, I assumed he was all sculpted muscle from my fleeting glance at his firm butt. And he snuggled babies.
Knox opened the box with the pesto chicken pizza that I loved and slid two slices onto a paper towel.
“Thanks,” I said.
“Eat,” he replied, tipping his head toward my plate and casting me a stern glare. “And I’m glad Ryder lives across the hall. Now I won’t worry as much about you living alone. I always liked him.”
I shot him a look. “You last saw him when he was, what? Nine?”
“Thirteen,” Knox said. “His aunt and uncle brought him back one summer after he moved to Boston.”
“He was a nice kid,” Nico said. “Quiet. Didn’t always agree with the crazy shit you wanted to get up to.”
“Probably smart,” Knox said.
I took a bite of my pizza, trying to quell the concern I felt at the idea of living across the hall from one of my brother’s old friends—a spy across the hall.
“Did you know he lived here?” I asked Nico.
He shook his head, chewing his bite. Once he’d washed it down with most of the can of bubbly water he must have pulled out of my fridge, he said, “Can’t say I’m sorry to know someone will be keeping an eye on you.”
“What do you think I’m going to get up to?” I snapped. “I’m at the office for ten hours each day, and then I work on my thesis.”
Nico settled his drink on the table with quiet care. “Well, then I guess us keeping you busy is a good thing.” He dropped his gaze to my belly.
I stood up from my chair on shaking legs, my jaw tensed as anger coursed through me. “Oh, no, you don’t. You don’t get to make me feel bad about my choices in my own home. Time for you to go.” I pointed to the door.
“What the hell?” Nico asked, his face scrunching in surprise.
I shook my head. “I get you’re unhappy with me, and I know our relationship has been rocky for years, but there is no way—no way—you can judge me like that in my home.” I shoved two of the pizza boxes in Nico’s chest and marched over to the door. I stood there with it open, fuming. “That makes me feel…” My lip quivered. I swallowed. “You really hurt my feelings.”
“Out,” I snapped. I looked over at Knox. “Thank you for helping me move. You can take the rest. I shouldn’t eat it anyway. There’s a lot of sodium in pizza, which isn’t great for my baby.”
Knox gathered the boxes, his eyes dripping with an apology. He pressed a kiss to my cheek and nudged Nico out of my place. I locked the door with a flourish and sagged against the wall.
“Was that necessary?” Knox asked, his voice raised enough for me to hear through my door.
I couldn’t hear Nico’s response, but Knox’s voice carried down the hall. “No wonder Aidy went to Rice instead of Rhode Island School of Design,” Knox said. “You can be such a judgmental dick.”
“I wasn’t trying to be,” Nico muttered.
“That’s the problem. With Aidy, you just are, and it clearly upsets her,” Knox said, surprising me as he came to my defense again.
I leaned my head against my locked front door and blinked back the tears Nico’s thoughtless comment produced. I inhaled and stood up straight.My brothers were gone, and I could now work on my thesis, as I’d wanted. Just not how I’d wanted to accomplish my goal.