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By Charlotte Douglas
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe house was finally ready for company.
With a sigh of weary satisfaction, Rebecca Warwick sank into the rocking chair beside the crackling fire in the mammoth stone fireplace. Shoving a strand of honey-colored hair off her forehead, she sipped a well-earned cup of tea. In spite of the drizzling rain pattering on the roof, the low-ceilinged room of the centuries-old log mountain house was snug and warm. It was also immaculately clean for the very important guest who would be arriving tomorrow for a month's stay.
Becca smiled in anticipation of the elderly doctor's visit. Dwight Peyseur had lived in her house for a month last summer while providing muchneeded free medical care to their isolated community deep in the North Carolina mountains. During that time, she and Emily, her four-and-a-half-yearold daughter, had come to think of him not only as a compassionate physician but also a kindly grandfather, a member of the family. They were looking forward to his arrival tomorrow morning.
In spite of her longing for a bath to wash away the dust and grime from her cleaning spree, Becca couldn't force herself to leave the comfort of her chair. She seldom took the opportunity to sit a spell and relax, as her granny used to say. But school was out for summer vacation, Emily was down for her nap, and leftovers in the fridge relieved Becca of the need to begin preparing supper. With a luxurious stretch, she set her cup aside, settled deeper into the chair, and promptly nodded off to sleep.
A relentless banging at the front door jerked her from her slumber.
Anxious to stop the racket before it awakened Emily, Becca leaped from the chair and hurried to the entry. With her heart pounding from her rude awakening and her mind wondering what dire emergency had precipitated such an uproar, she yanked open the heavy door.
The man before her drove all thoughts from her head, but was no deterrent to her thundering heart.
A tall, broad-shouldered stranger gazed across the front yard toward a Land Rover parked by the gate. Even though she couldn't see his face, Becca recognized immediately that the man was an outsider, definitely not one of her many neighbors and kin who lived in the surrounding hills and hollows of Warwick Mountain.
He didn't wear worn jeans or overalls, faded chambray shirts or scuffed work boots that were the common uniform of those who farmed the steep, rocky terrain. In fact, the man looked as if he'd never had a close encounter with dirt, much less hard labor, in his entire life. His expensive khaki slacks were unwrinkled, his muted madras shirt the finest cotton, and his Italian loafers shone as if they'd just been polished. His thick brown hair had obviously been professionally styled, and the gold watch on his wrist would probably feed a mountain family of six for a full year.
Remembering her manners, Becca asked, "May I help you?"
She assumed the man was lost, having taken by mistake the long, winding road that dead-ended in the village, and then followed the gravel road to her house.
He turned at the sound of her voice, and when he faced her, she felt the air leave her lungs as surely as if someone had driven a fist into her stomach. His sun-streaked, mahogany-colored hair, slightly dampened by the rain, fell across a broad forehead above a pair of magnificent eyes as deep and brown as the river that ran through the back forty acres. With his golden tan, lean muscular build and a slow, easy smile that made her insides quiver, he looked every inch a quintessential California surfer, aged to a marvelous thirtyish maturity.
"I'm looking for Rebecca Warwick." His voice was as deep and sensuous as the gleam in his brown eyes, and she took a moment to register his words.
"Why?" she asked in surprise, once she'd recovered breath enough to speak.
"I'm supposed to stay in her home. I understand she's the local schoolteacher."
Becca shook away the confusion the handsome man's arrival and unexpected query had caused. "I'm Rebecca Warwick." She noted that the pupils in his remarkable eyes dilated with apparent shock at her admission. "But there must be some mistake -"
"You're Rebecca Warwick? The teacher?" Disbelief tinged his voice and showed clearly in his expression.
She shrugged, smiled and tried to make light of his skepticism. "Last time I checked. You can see my driver's license if you want proof."
He shook his head, his eyes clouded with confusion. "Didn't Dr. Peyseur call you?"
"No one's called. The phones have been out since last night's storm."
"Don't you have a cell phone?" His expression turned even more incredulous.
Becca's smile widened at his disbelief. "The surrounding mountains block the signals. Cell phones aren't much use here." Her smile disappeared. "Why was Dr. Peyseur supposed to call me?"
The stranger shook his head again in obvious frustration. "I'm sorry. Dwight promised he'd let you know he can't make his annual trip."
Disappointment cascaded through her, not only for her own loss at his canceled visit but for the continued suffering of those his medical attention would have helped. "Why can't he come? Is he all right?"
The man's eyes glowed with warm sympathy, and his wide, generous mouth curved into a sympathetic frown. "As all right as he can be with a broken wrist."
"Oh, no. That's awful. How -" Then, suddenly recalling what her visitor had mentioned earlier, she raised an eyebrow. "You said you're supposed to stay with me?"
Excerpted from Dr. Wonderful by Charlotte Douglas Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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