This may be one of my books that really doesn't have a villain. Sometimes the hero and heroine seem as though they are their own worst enemies. Other times their friends seem to push them a bit too hard. The heroine has an enemy in that her ex-husband left her the moment he finished medical school and he no longer needed her money. The hero has issues with parents who married and divorced many times.
Magda Malone jammed her hands in the pockets of her white lab coat and felt the fabric rip. Just what she needed to add a bit of anger to what she’d just been asked to do. Why wouldn’t he understand no meant absolutely not?
Her jaw clenched. The temptation to commit an act of violence hovered like a giant thunderhead. She stared out the window of her office on the fifth floor of
Sucking in a deep breath, she turned to her colleague and friend. At the moment, she wasn’t sure friend was operative. "Would you repeat your question?"
"Could you come to dinner tonight?" the cardiologist asked.
That wasn’t the portion of the original question she wanted to hear. "I believe there was more."
"Like I said. Nothing formal. It’s not a party or anything."
"Come on. Say what you said before. I need to be sure I’m not going deaf."
"Lin and I want you to meet my new partner. He’s her cousin and a really great guy."
Magda glared. "Ben, I’m not letting you off the hook. What did you want me to do with this man?"
He studied his hands. "Was just a suggestion, not an order."
"And that was?"
"You can show him a good time." He joined her at the window.
She arched a brow. "A good time as in.…" Her voice trailed away. She thought she had grasped his suggestion, but she wanted to hear the words repeated. Then she would stomp. "Does your wife know you’re soliciting?"
"What?" His round face reddened. "That’s not what I ... well, maybe ... just ... couldn’t you make him happy to be in Rivertown? If you two don’t click, you could show him around the ... dating scene. You know what I mean. 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 I accomplish your purpose?"
He stared at the window. "Anything it takes."
"No deal." She clipped the words. Would he understand why she was so angry?
"Mag, come on. Wasn’t I there for you when you needed a shoulder. I need a partner who will stay, especially now."
Magda sighed. Ben and Linda had been there when she’d needed them, but he was asking for too much. "Why me?"
"Men like you. You like them and --"
"Don’t say it." She stalked to the desk and stared at the stack of folders needing her attention. "I don’t want to lose a good friend, but you’re treading on the brink."
"I didn’t mean you had to ... you know.…"
She rested her hands on the cool metal surface. "Let us set the record straight. I choose the men I want in my life. I don’t need anyone, not even a good friend, 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 what will happen.
Give me one good reason you’re being so stubborn."
Was the invitation his idea or his wife’s? Sure she’dtold her friend about the lack of interesting and eligible men in the area. Did it matter who had dreamed up this scheme? She wasn’t about to accept. Her friends had heard her views time and again. She wasn’t about to repeat them. "What do I always say?"
"You don’t play where you work."
"Sounds like you’ve heard me."
"Been there. Done that. Got burned."
He rolled his eyes. "But you received a nice divorce settlement. Give my new partner a chance. What can you lose?"
My independence, she thought. "Goodbye, Ben." She pointed to the door. "There’s a large flock of available women out there who would be glad, even eager, to meet an available doctor. I can name a dozen who are closer to his age."
"So he’s a bit younger. What’s seven years?" He backed to the door.
"Almost half a generation. See you."
He opened the door. "Eric has a thing for older women."
"Good for him. Ask Mabel Gray to dinner."
"Older. Not ancient."
"Tell Linda I’ll call tomorrow. Let her know I feel an urge for a shopping spree."
He groaned. "For what?"
She shrugged. "My vacation. Your soon-to-be baby. I can think of a dozen reasons, but I don’t need an excuse to shop."
"Bye." He closed the door.
Got him, she thought. Her anger changed to amusement. Spare me from matchmaking friends. She reached for the top folder. Her mind wandered from the budget to the future.
Four weeks until vacation and she had plans. Sun, surf, moonlit nights at a singles’ resort where she could meet men who had no desire for a commitment. She wanted a fling or two that allowed her to escape with her heart intact.
Her whirlwind marriage and the divorce a month after he had finished his surgical residency had taught her a painful lesson. Never become involved in a relationship with a doctor. Since the day the decree had become final, she’d controlled her life and she chose the men who shared her bed.
Her pen skidded across the paper and left a red mark. Darn you, Ben. Why had he set her thoughts on days best forgotten? She heaved a sigh and returned to work.
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.