Locked In by Tricia Wentworth

CHAPTER 1

Blakely Harper went to college seven years for this. Seven years. Somehow, she’d assumed that at the end of the seven years there’d be some climactic event. That after finally getting certified, she’d be instantly out there changing the world and saving lives—that kind of thing.

Okay, maybe not actual lives, because this was physical therapy and not the ER. But as it turned out, those seven years and her doctorate degree didn’t guarantee immediate greatness in the workaday world. If anything, it just delayed the bad part—the part where you had to work your butt off for what you want.

Adulthood was just riding out a permanent sort of exhaustion. On a unicycle. That you’ve never ridden before.

Why didn’t anyone warn her about this?

She moved her neck from side to side and took a deep breath. She had the job she wanted. She finished school. She’d moved back to Picketts and opened her own practice. This was the life she’d been working toward for the last seven years . . . right?

“And then sometimes when the weather takes a turn like this . . .”

She held her breath. She was doing what she called a “joint joints session” with three of the five elderly women who’d dubbed themselves the Pink Ladies—yes, just like the movie Grease—and were notorious for being wherever the gossip was up and running hot.

“My hip gets all out of whack,” Beth explained.

Blakely let out the breath she was holding and tucked her chin-length blond hair behind her ear. Considering the ladies spent almost their whole session talking about constipation and the foods they couldn’t eat anymore, all while doing the stretches and moves she led them through, it could’ve been way worse.

“And then Harold and I just can’t have any sort of marital fun, if you know what I mean.”

Annnnnd there it was. She tried not to react. The old married couple had to be pushing close to seventy, and that was an image she’d just rather not ever have. Ever. Then Beth waggled her eyebrows at her.

Blakely felt her cheeks go hot.

Letty piped in, “At least ya still got a husband for such activities. It’s been a coon’s age since my biscuits have been buttered.”

Blakely knew she had to interrupt them before this went any further because, please no, she did not need to know these things about her clients. “Oookay, ladies, you can put your bands down now, and let’s move to our cooldown stretches.”

As their session wound down and she finally got the Pink Ladies out the door, she took a moment for herself and filled out paperwork before lunch. It wasn’t the Pink Ladies who were to blame for her funky mood. She loved old people. She didn’t even mind their blunt honesty about all bodily functions either. To be honest, though they were chatty, the elderly women who ran this town were kind of endearing. No one was going to admit that, though. If they knew the town actually adored them, they’d rule with an iron fist.

Working with the elderly was a big part of physical therapy as a whole. It only made sense that as bodies aged and had wear and tear, they would need more attention and treatment. She knew when she opened up her own practice in a town the size of Picketts that 80 percent of her clients would be elderly—Pink Ladies or otherwise.

As she closed the file and handed it to her front-desk receptionist, she couldn’t help but wonder: Is this all there is to life?