Night Heat

By: Brenda Jackson


“What do you mean I need to take time off work for medical reasons?” Sebastian Steele asked, squirming uncomfortably under Dr. Joe Nelson’s intense gaze. It was that time of year again—the company physical. An event he detested.

Last year Dr. Nelson—who to Sebastian’s way of thinking should be staring retirement real close in the face—had told Sebastian that his blood pressure was too high and as a result he needed to adopt a healthier lifestyle, a lifestyle that included improving his eating habits, taking the medication he’d been prescribed, becoming more physically active and eliminating stress by reducing his hours at work.

Sebastian had done none of those things.

It wasn’t that he hadn’t taken the doctor seriously; it was just that he hadn’t had the time to make the changes the man had requested. Sebastian, better known as Bas, was single and used to grabbing something to eat on the run. Asking him to give up fried chicken was simply un-American. As far as taking the medication the doctor had prescribed, well, he would take the damn things if he could remember to have the prescription filled.

Then there was this thing about becoming physically active. He guessed having sex on a regular basis didn’t count. And even if it did, that would be a moot point now, since he’d broken his engagement to Cassandra Tisdale eight months ago and hadn’t had another bed partner since.

Last but not least was this nonsense about eliminating stress by cutting his work hours. Now that was really asking a lot. He lived to work and he worked to live. The term workaholic could definitely be used to describe him. The Steele Corporation was more than just a company to Sebastian; it was a lifeline. He thoroughly enjoyed his job in the family business as troubleshooter and problem solver.

“You heard me correctly, Bas. I recommend that you take a three-month medical leave of absence.”

Sebastian shook his head. “You can’t be serious.”

“I’m as serious as a heart attack, which is what you’re going to have if you don’t make immediate changes.”

The muscle in Sebastian’s jaw twitched and his teeth began clenching. “Aren’t you getting a little carried away about this? I’m thirty-five, not seventy-five.”

“And at the rate you’re going you won’t make it to forty-five,” Dr. Nelson said flatly.

Sebastian stood on his feet, no longer able to sit for this conversation. “Fine, I’ll take a week off.”

“One week isn’t good enough. You need at least three months away from here.” Dr. Nelson leaned back in his chair and continued his speech. “I know you don’t want to accept what I’m telling you, and of course you’re free to get a second opinion, but my recommendation will stand. And I will take it to the board if I have to. If you don’t make some major and immediate changes to your lifestyle then you’re a stroke or a heart attack just waiting to happen. I’m going to make sure you get to live to the ripe old age of seventy, like me,” Dr. Nelson ended, chuckling.

Bas rolled his eyes heavenward. “What if I take two weeks off?” he asked, deciding to try and work a deal.

“You need at least three months.”

“What about a month, Doc? I promise to give KFC a break and lay off the fried chicken, and I promise—”

“Three months, Bas. You actually need at least six but I’m willing to settle for three. At the end of that time you’ll thank me.”

Bas snorted before walking out the door. He seriously doubted it.

“Your brothers are here to see you, Mr. Steele.”

Bas frowned, wondering what they wanted. Just as he’d known they would, they had bought into Dr. Nelson’s recommendation as though it had been the gospel according to St. John. He was thankful his brothers had given him a week to tie up loose ends around the office instead of the two days Dr. Nelson had suggested.

He stood, crossing his arms over his chest, when the three walked in. There was Chance, who at thirty-seven was the oldest Steele brother and CEO of the corporation. Then came Morgan who was thirty-three and the head of the Research and Development Department. Donovan, at thirty, was in charge of Product Administration. Of the three, Chance was the only one married.