Heart throb is the steamiest book I've written. Magda Malone has been there, done that and got hurt. She vows never to become involved with a doctor again. Her new neighbor Damon and she hit it off very well--until she learns he's a doctor. Damon doesn't believe in marriage. He'd lost count of his step-fathers and mothes, but Magda gets to him. Can he convince her this hot love will never end?
Magda Malone jammed her hands in the pockets of her white lab coat and felt the fabric tear. Just what she needed to add a touch of anger to her friend’s sly request. Hadn’t he heard her resounding refusal?
Her jaw clenched and she felt her teeth grind. The temptation to commit an act of violence hovered like a massive thundercloud. She stared out the window of her fifth floor office at Riverview Memorial and shoved her anger into a corner of her mind. The hospital didn’t need the Cardiac Units supervisor to ignite, especially over a personal matter.
Sucking in a deep breath along with a quick count to ten she turned to her colleague and friend. At the moment she wasn’t sure friend was operative. “Repeat your question. I’m not sure I heard you?”
“Would you join us for dinner tonight?” the cardiologist asked.
“That’s not the part of the original question I want to hear. Wasn’t there more?”
“Like I said. Nothing formal. It’s not a party. Just a family sort of thing.”
Magda smiled. “Come on. Spit it out. I need to be sure I’m not going deaf.”
He leaned his hip against the corner of the desk. “Lin and I want you to meet my new partner. He’s her cousin and a really great guy.”
Magda glared. “Ben, let me repeat. What did you want me to do with this man?”
He studied his hands. “Was just a suggestion.”
“And that was?”
“To show him a really good time.” He joined her at the window.
She arched a brow. “A good time as in what?” She thought she knew the direction his thoughts traveled but she wanted to be sure she’d heard him correctly. Her hands fisted. “Does your wife know you’re soliciting?”
“What?” His round face reddened. “That’s not what I meant … well, maybe … just –” He groaned. “Couldn’t you just fine … make him happy to be in Rivertown? If the two of you don’t click you could show him around the … dating scene. You know what I meant.”
He heaved a sigh. "Lin and I want him to settle here.”
Magda shook her head. “Spit it out, Doctor.” Anger oozed from the dark corner and colored her voice. “Just how do you expect me to accomplish your purpose?”
He stared at her. “Anything it takes.”
“No way.” She clipped the words with a razor edge. Would he understand why she was furious?
“Mag, come on. Wasn’t I there for you when you needed a shoulder?”
“I’ll give you that.”
“I need a partner who will settle here permanently, especially now.”
Magda sighed. Ben and Lin had been there when her life fell apart but he was asking too much. “Why me?”
“Men like you and you like them a lot.”
She held up a hand. “Not another word.” She walked to the desk and stared at the stack of folders needing her attention. “I don’t want to lose a good friend but one more word and you’re toast.”
“I didn’t mean you had to … you know.”
She rested her hands on the cool metal surface of the desk. “Let me set the record straight. I choose the men I want in my life. I don’t need anyone fixing me up with a man.”
“I hear you.” He sank on the chair across from the desk. “Lin said you’re bored with the local dating scene. Come to dinner. If you don’t like Eric, you can leave. If you do, who knows where it will lead. Give me a good reason why you’re being so stubborn.”
Was the invitation his idea or his wife? If it hadn’t been for the added incentive she would have believed Lin as the author or the idea. Happily married women always seemed to want their unmarried friends to be coupled. Magda had told her friend about the lack of eligible and interesting men in the area. Did it matter who had dreamed up the meeting? Magda slumped in the chair behind her desk. She wasn’t about to accept the offer today, next month or any year. Her views on the subject had been expressed time and again. “What are my rules of dating?”
“You don’t date where you work.”
“You don’t do doctors.”
“Sounds like you’ve heard me.”
“Loud and clear. This time is different.”
She shook her head. “Been there. Done that. Got burned.”
He rolled his eyes. “You received a nice divorce settlement. Give my new partner a chance. He could be the exception to your rule. What can you lose?”
“My independence. My head. I could face another fractured heard. “Goodbye, Ben.” She pointed to the door. “There’s a whole flock of available women out there who would delight in dating an available cardiologist. I can name a half dozen closer to his age.”
“What’s seven years?” He scrambled from the chair.
“More than half a decade. See you.”
He opened the door. “Eric likes older women.”
“Good for him. Ask Mabel Gray to dinner.”
Ben turned. “Older, not ancient.”
“Tell Lin I’ll call tomorrow. Let her know I feel an urge for shopping.”
He groaned. “Why?”
Magda’s smile widened. “My coming vacation. Your baby-to-be. I don’t need an excuse to shop.”
“Bye.” He closed the door.
Got him. Amusement bubbled to the surface washing away the ashes of anger. Spare me from match-making friends. She reached for the top folder. Her thoughts wandered from the department’s budget to the future.
Four weeks until vacation and she had plans. Sun, surf, moonlit nights at a single’s resort. Meeting men who had no desire for a commitment. She wanted a fling or three that allowed her to escape with an intact heart.
Her whirlwind marriage had ended in a divorce a month after he’d finished his surgical residency. She’d learned a painful lesson. Never date or become romantically involved with a doctor. Since the day the divorce had become final she had controlled her life and only she chose the men who shared her bed.
Her pen skidded across the paper leaving a red streak. Damn you, Ben. Why had he turned her thoughts to days best forgotten? She gripped the pen and returned to the budget proposal.
* * *
Eric Damon Blair III surveyed his new living space and grinned. Though the condo was mostly unfurnished he was pleased with the place he’d bought last week. In the living room he’d created a nest of pillows on the dark blue carpet. Perfect for viewing the huge flat screen TV and for making love.
He strode into the bedroom where the most important item of furniture had been delivered. The king-size bed was ready for the kind of action he preferred. Soft sheets, plump pillows on a firm mattress. Just thinking about using this spot set his heard speeding to send extra blood to his groin. Not yet, he warned. Soon.
He turned and scanned the living area. One of his favorite features was the bar between the kitchen and dining areas. With a couple of bar stools he could eat there until he purchased a table and chairs.
Once he knew his way around town and found some willing helpers he would buy furniture. He closed his eyes and visualized his aides. A sleek blonde. A ravishing redhead. A cuddly woman with brown hair. A sultry ebony-haired siren. All he had to do was meet them and lure them to his nest. That had never been a problem.
No strings. No commitments. He had no intention of traveling the road his parents had worn to ruts. Serial monogamy. He’d lost count of the numbers of step-mamas and step-papas that flowed through his life like a fleet of paper boats launched on a pond. No marriage meant no divorce, the end of every road his parents had traveled.
He flipped the cover of his cell phone and tapped his cousin’s number. Better inform her of his new residence before she phoned the police to report him missing or every hospital between the city and here searching for his body. She answered on the second ring.
“Hi, Lin. I’m in town.”
“Eric, where are you?”
“It’s Damon. Eric is my father and our grandfather.”
She laughed. “Forgot the name change. You’re late. What happened? Traffic? An accident? Were you hurt?”
“None of the above.”
“Then where are you. I’ve been pacing for two hours.”
“In town. Had a bit of luck.” He settled against the headboard of the bed. “Found a place.”
“Aren’t you staying with us? I have plans.”
“I bet you do.” He swallowed a growl. He imagined she had a dozen schemes to match him with a matrimonial-seeking friend or three. He had no intention of camping in his cousin’s guest room. Watching a nesting set of parents wasn’t a scene he wanted to endure.
She laughed. “Caught me. So where is this place and how did you find it?”
“Ran into the brother of a patient. He wanted to sell his condo. Had the money from the trust so I bought. Place is great. Once I’m settled I’ll throw a party.”
“You are coming to dinner tonight, aren’t you?”
“Eric, Damon, whoever you are. There’s a friend I want you to meet. Ben and I invited her over. You’ll like her. She’s great.”
Score one for men’s intuition. “Forget your schemes.” Damon groaned. “What is it with you happily-marrieds? Can’t stand to see someone unattached? I need no help finding women. That’s plural. Don’t want or need permanent.”
She laughed. “Neither does my friend. I thought you two would be a perfect match.”
“Thanks for thinking of me. I’ll find my own women. Talk to you later. I’m off to unpack the car.”
“When will we see you?”
“If something doesn’t come up I’ll swing by tomorrow or Sunday. Unless I’m diverted. Imagine you get the picture.”
She laughed. “Sure of yourself, aren’t you? Good luck in the hunt. Don’t expect to succeed. You’re new in town.”
He chuckled. “You’d be surprised. Sometimes being the new face has amazing results. Gives the ladies a new body to explore.”
“But loveable. Ciao.”
Damon rose from the bed and headed to the door. Time to unpack the stereo system. Then shower, shave, change and hit the local watering spots. Fridays were always social nights at the bars. Surely he’d find more interesting company that an unattached female who needed friends to find her a date. Even if she didn’t admit to being a player in the husband hunt he rarely met a woman who didn’t turn huntress the moment she learned he was a doctor.
* * *
Magda shoved the last folder in the drawer and made a series of phone calls to check for pending problems on the units she supervised. All was calm. She flipped the calendar to Monday, slung her bag over her shoulder and left the hospital. As she strode to her convertible she uncoiled the chignon at her nape and combed her fingers through the strands. Freedom.
On the way home she stopped at the supermarket, picked up her birth control packet, bought strawberries, raw sugar and sour cream and rented a movie. She planned to spend the evening with a kick action flick and dreams of the coming vacation.
The warm breeze carried a hint of rising humidity. As she sped toward the condo the wind whipped her hair. Her laughter rose above the classic rock throbbing from the speaker.
Years ago she’d been dumb but her divorce attorney had been shrewd. The car and the luxury condo were courtesy of her ex. Still the settlement she’d received hadn’t made her believe she was a woman for the long haul. Did it matter? Short term presented many challenging adventures.
As she drove into the complex the guard leaned from the booth. “Ms. Malone, new tenant alert.”
“The other unit in your building.”
“Thanks.” Magda waved. He’d said tenant. Did that mean single? Male or female? Dare she hope for a male, attractive, interesting and available?
She pulled into the garage beneath her unit and noted the empty boxes at the curb. After grabbing her packages she headed to the foyer. Maybe she would drop by to welcome the newcomer.
When she saw the man on the stairs leading from the apartment level she sucked in a breath. Neighbor or mover? Single or married? Excitement rushed in with hurricane force. Wouldn’t take much to learn his status.
Denim cutoffs provided a view of tanned muscular legs. Her gaze traveled to appraise flat abs, a muscular chest and broad shoulders. A slow smile changed his features from merely handsome to rugged and fascinating. The streak of white in his jet hair looked as if a lighting bolt had seared a path.
Brilliant blue eyes captured her gaze. Steam flowed through her veins. No attached man sent out those signals unless he was primed for a fling. In that case she would pass. Only the unattached male need apply for her attention. She didn’t do married or engaged. His hand bore no wedding band but these days the absence meant zilch. Her plans for the evening began to morph. She started up the stairs. He backed up several steps.
His deep voice zapped like a jolt from cardiac conversion paddles. Her imagination soared like a geyser. How would his sensuous mouth taste? She imagined those strong hands and fingers stroking her breasts. “Welcome to Rivertown.” She reached the landing and paused at her door.
He reached for her free hand. “Damon.”
“Magda.” She liked the laugh lines around his eyes. Must be about my age. Perfect.
His thumb rubbed circles on the back of her hand. More than perfect. Life had taken a turn in the right direction. Her nipples contracted. She glanced down. The bulge beneath his fly seemed to swell. Attraction – mutual – instant. She felt an itch she wanted to scratch. “So nice to meet a new neighbor. Is your wife inside?”
He grinned and inched closer. “No wife. No recent women in my life.”
“I see.” Her tongue played along her lower lip. Interest darkened his eyes. This man was as hot as molten lava and she wanted to burn. “Have you met any of the other neighbors?”
“Just arrived this afternoon. You’re the first.”
“Do you have plans for this evening?”
He stepped closer. She held her ground. “If I did they’re forgotten. Any suggestions?”
She met his gaze. “How about dinner. My place at seven. After wards … we’ll see what develops.” She inhaled the scent of the man. Masculine. A hint of spice. A touch of desire. A potent drug laced with aromas that teased her hormones.
“I’d like that. I’ll bring the wine. Do you like champagne?”
“What’s not to like?” She smiled. “Hope you have a healthy appetite.”
He touched her lips with a finger. “That’s one thing I have in good supply.”
She flicked her tongue along his skin. He tasted like a sin she planned to commit. “See you at seven.” She opened the door of her unit, stepped inside and bled a kiss. “Until later.”
He growled the words. She nearly asked him for a taste of instant gratification. Except, anticipation made the juices flow and brought the appetite to a peak.
She leaned against the cool metal surface of the door. Her thoughts raced. She could make more than a meal of this man. Could she parlay dinner to extend for the entire weekend?
* * *
Damon fisted his hands and stared at Magda’s door. He took a step, then a second and raised a hand to knock. Drawing a deep breath he moved back. He wanted her now. If she hadn’t slipped away he would have taken her against the wall. His cock throbbed and was primed for action. He liked the way she moved. He liked the way she smelled. Her response to him had danced along his nerves like an electric current.
He growled. Her subtle scent lingered, teased and pushed his need to taste her skin. During their brief encounter he’d waged a battle to keep from grabbing and ravishing. He wanted to capture her taut nipple in his mouth and lick salt from her skin. He’d wanted women before but his lust had never come close to slipping from his control.
When her tongue had slid along his finger he’d nearly lost his mind. Not a good sign. He’d always set the boundaries of each affair. He couldn’t let lust become an obsession. Never happened before. Couldn’t now.
Good thing he’d begged off dinner with Lin, Ben and the woman they’d wanted him to meet. He’d escaped a boring evening and a trap with jagged teeth to snare him. He dashed to his apartment before he made a fool of himself. He strode through the living room. How could he find a way to extend the dinner and what followed into a weekend spent in the bed of his sexy neighbor?
A quick check of the medicine cabinet and his dresser drawers showed he needed some essential supplies. Call him cautious but he always wore condoms. He’d seen the results of carelessness. Not for him. He hoped Magda felt the same. He grabbed the car keys from the dresser.
The cell phone chimed with the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth. “Yeah,” he said.
“Ben here. There’ll only be three of us at dinner. Do you mind?”
Guess he hadn’t talked to Lin. “So what happened to the woman you think is perfect for me. The one so eager to meet me?”
“She said no.”
“Really.” Any other time that would have bothered him. Not tonight. “Did you forget to mention I am a doctor?”
Ben laughed. “She knows. That was her main reason for saying no. She doesn’t do doctors. Not to mention you’re too young and she doesn’t play where she worked.”
Damon chuckled. “Her loss. Doesn’t matter. I can’t come. Something interesting came up.”
“As in female?”
Ben groaned. “How long have you been in town?”
“Five, maybe six hours.”
Damon strode toward the door. “Just lucky.”
“Are you at the house?”
“Found my own place complete with a hot woman.”
“Is it wise to move in with someone you don’t know?”
Damon closed the door and juggled the phone to lock up. “I’m not. Bought a condo unit. Met the woman maybe fifteen minutes ago.”
“What’s she like?”
Damon heard the interest in Ben’s voice. “Tall, long legs, great body.”
Damon laughed. “No way, buddy. I won’t give you a chance to warn her about your cousin-in-law’s rule of life.”
“Imagine she’s beautiful.”
Damon frowned. Was she? He pulled her image into his thoughts. Her features weren’t classic. Pouty lips that cried for kisses. Brown hair and brown bedroom eyes. Beautiful, no. Still, something about her hand hit him with hurricane force.
“Is she?” Ben repeated.
“Let’s just say she’s intriguing.”
“Where’s the condo? I can stop by and we can discuss the practice.”
Damon laughed. “No way. What could have changed since the last time we talked?” He started downstairs. “You know what they say about curiosity.”
“Caught me. Give me a buzz tomorrow. Want to go over the on-call schedule.”
“If I surface.”
Ben chuckled. “You’re incorrigible. Come for brunch on Sunday and bring this hot woman.”
“Don’t count on it.”
“Is now a better time?”
Damon clattered down the stairs. “No time. Need to run to the store. In case we don’t talk before I’ll see you Monday morning at the hospital.”
“Be there by eight. I’ll introduce you and we’ll make rounds.”
“Will do.” Damon disconnected and slid into his car. He glanced at Magda’s windows. One hour and counting.
* * *
His mouth covered hers. He cupped her breasts. His thumbs caressed her nipples. She slid her hands beneath his shirt. “Come to me.”
The clock chimed six times. Magda gasped. How long had she been lost in an erotic fantasy with her new neighbor in the lead role?
She pushed away from the door and gathered her packages from the floor. In an hour he would arrive. Dinner at seven followed by an evening of getting to know each other on as many levels as possible, preferably on their backs. How could she have lost herself in a dream world created by a steamy imagination when there was so much to do?
She dashed to the kitchen. Not enough time to prepare a real gourmet feast complete with suggestive dishes. The last time she’d found a man intriguing enough to invite for a meal had been six months ago. The meal had ended that affair.
She defrosted two steaks, made her special marinade, and zapped several potatoes to partially cook. After cutting them in wedges she seasoned the pieces. Thank heavens for packaged salads and bottled dressing with a few added herbs.
She hurried to the bedroom, stripped and changed the linens. She spread a thick feather bed over the sheets. Like making love on a cloud. Her body tingled with anticipation and a new fantasy crept into her thoughts.
Cool it, Magda.
Before entering another sex-laden dream she gathered the clothes she’d dropped on the floor that morning and added them to the hamper. In the bathroom she shoved the birth control container in the medicine cabinet. Why was the old one still out? Had she taken her daily dose? One of these days she had to investigate the long term ones.
A frown wrinkled her forehead. Taking the pill was part of her morning routine but so was storing the box. Her thoughts flowed back. Open cabinet. Remove box. Take pill. A call from the hospital had interrupted her routine. Tension ebbed. Back to preparations.
After hanging new towels on the racks she took a deep breath. Calm down. There’s time. The man had churned more emotions that she cared to admit. Memories of his hot body and his come-hither eyes exploded in her thoughts. Her body responded. She shook her head. Could she curb her eagerness to feel his naked flesh body dancing with her?
She scurried into the living room for a quick straightening. Images of his muscular body flashed in her thoughts. She felt a major attraction to Damon. Damon who?
Neither of them had offered a last name. Oh well, she would learn in time.
She sucked in a breath. Had been a long time since she’d been so eager for a particular man. Try nine years and her ex. What a mistake that had been. She’d allowed him to set the pace. She’d fallen for his line. Med student needs a helpmate. More like a Sugar Mama. She’d paid the rent, bought the food and handled all the bills. Ten days after his residency ended she had been dumped like clothing gone out of fashion.
Not this time. She knew all the traps. How would Damon react when she controlled the evening? His reaction would be a major factor in her decision to reach for more than tonight.
* * *
Damon stood at the counter in the package store and paid for the champagne. He tucked a box of his favorite condoms in the bag the clerk handed him.
The muscle-bound guy grinned. “Looks like you’re planning a big evening.”
“Oh yeah.” Damon strode to the door. Just thinking about Magda had his cock throbbing. Been months since he’d found a woman who made him sizzle.
When he stepped outside the warm humid air flowed over his skin. The sultry day headed for a steamy evening with one sexy woman. Just the right ingredients for a stellar night. He savored a memory of the invitation he’d seen in her dark eyes.
A vase of red roses in the window of a florist’s shop caught his attention. The flowers cried passion. He nodded. Not a dozen, only one. A subtle touch to signal desire not love.
As he drove to the condo classic rock blared from the car speakers. He parked in the garage and took the stairs two at a time. Shower, shave and dress. He put the champagne in the freezer to chill and headed to the bathroom for a cold shower to cool his appetite for the lady next door.
The evening promised to be a sizzler, not just the weather. Just what did Magda have in mind as dessert after dinner? Should he follow her agenda or institute his own plans? Images of what he wanted to do with her lush body stirred his cock with a fierce urge to delve her depths. He flipped the shower to frigid and let the ice water slake his rising ardor.
At five to seven he tucked a supply of condoms in his trouser pocket. If the evening extended through the weekend he could always slip over for more supplies. He took the champagne from the freezer and lifted the rose from the counter. He was armed and he hoped as dangerous as his neighbor desired.
As he strode to the door Beethoven’s Fifth sounded. He ignored the persistent ring. The only people he knew in town were his cousin, his partner and the woman next door. She had his number but not for his phone. Anyone else could leave a voice mail. He would call later. Much later, he hoped.