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’d told 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.