- Edition: 2nd
- Available in: Mobi, Print
- Published: September 16, 2017
Dr. Arnulfo Oliva is torn: he could stay in the United States, but he vowed to return to his home country and practice medicine in the remote villages that offer little to no healthcare. Mitch doesn’t need him, not really; he’s surrounded by wealth and possessions.
Rising star Dr. Mitchell Rollins enjoys his lavish lifestyle, and if Nulfo wants to turn his back on all they could have together, let him. Mitch doesn’t even miss him. Much. Or think of him—more than five times an hour.
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocks El Salvador and both men. Mitch joins a mercy mission, determined to find his former lover, talk sense into the man, and bring him back to the US and safety. What he finds opens his eyes to all Nulfo tried to tell him.
Mitch must decide what he truly can’t live without.
Ever since Mitch first laid eyes on him, Arnulfo Oliva had been a happy man, always smiling, always having a kind word for everyone, especially children. He’d taught Mitch how to loosen up and not be Dr. Straight-Laced all the time.
There was no trace of happiness on the man’s face now.
“Mitchell.” Arnulfo took Mitch’s hand. “I am blessed. Well and truly blessed that I was able to come here and get an education.” He raised watery eyes, misery clear in their dark depths. “I made a promise the day I arrived in the United States that I’d use my talents and skills to help my countrymen.”
Old news. Arnulfo always expressed altruistic motives for becoming a doctor. Many in the medical profession said the same. Hell, when trying to win the right approval Mitch himself spouted such concern for his fellow man, touching sentiment spoken to sway certain doctors into giving a recommendation. No one ever meant the empty words.
Except, apparently, for Arnulfo.
“There’s plenty of ways you can help from here. You don’t have to go back there.” Mitch winced. Damn, he sounded whiney. The scenes of domestic bliss he’d envisioned all day faded, replaced by the looming reality of a lonely condo and a table set for one.
Arnulfo answered with a bittersweet smile. “I didn’t grow up like you did, expecting the house on the hill and the big, fancy car. In fact, in my village, growing up at all wasn’t a given. You have no idea how many kids I knew who didn’t live to see eighteen.”
Jaw clenched, Mitch ground out, “You don’t owe them anything.”
“Yes, I do.” Arnulfo gazed at the gathering darkness for a long, quiet moment. His eyes were shiny when he turned back to face Mitch. A droplet spilled over his sooty lashes, leaving a trail down his face. He wiped the tear away with the back of his hand. “I don’t want to leave you, but this is something I have to do. Please understand.”
Mitch had been on top of the world an hour ago. Here he thought he’d found someone to spend forever with. Had Arnulfo used him for his power and good name? “People tend to do what they want to do. If you want to leave me, you don’t have to make up excuses, you’re free to do as you please.” God, no one’s chest could feel so tight without exploding, could it? Please, please, let this all be a mistake. Arnulfo couldn’t leave. He just couldn’t.
The man he’d wanted for a partner delivered the killing blow to their relationship. “Take me back to my car, please.” No, “Just kidding, can I come back to your place?” or “Nothing is more important to me than you, of course I’ll move in,” rather the same stick-to-his-guns determination that caused both admiration and, occasionally, frustration on Mitch’s part in the past.
Once Arnulfo made a decision, nothing could change his mind. How long had he been considering this course of action? Why hadn’t he discussed this with Mitch earlier and save them both grief?
Sure he talked about going home, but it’d just been talk, hadn’t it? He swallowed down a mouthful of bitter pride. “What about me?”
“You don’t need me. You’ll forget me in a month. I may be all they have. No one wants to be a doctor in the isolated mountains regions. There’s no money there.”
They didn’t speak to each other on the way back to the hospital. What could Mitch say? He ground his teeth. Nope, he wouldn’t cry. But Arnulfo had never been more wrong—Mitch wouldn’t forget him in a month.
He pulled into the parking garage. Thank God! No one around to witness his humiliation.
Arnulfo got out of the car and came around to the driver’s side. “You may not believe me, but I really do love you.”
Mitch sealed his lips tight, staring down at his hands. What good would it do to say the same? Arnulfo wouldn’t believe him anyway.
When Nulfo’s aging Kia pulled away, Mitch sat in the quiet parking garage alone, tears filling his eyes.
Only when no one could hear did he dare say, “I love you too.”