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"No way am I going to a wedding with you." Faith Fogarty shook her head, knowing this time her boss had pushed her too far. "Uhuh, no way. I won't be lumped into the category as one of your girls."
Glad no one seemed to be paying them the slightest attention, probably because their coworkers were all trying to look busy so as not to attract the boss's attention, Faith retreated into the privacy of Dr. Vale Wakefield's office, him hot on her heels.
"I'm not asking you to be one of my girls," he pointed out, unnecessarily.
Of course he wasn't asking her to be one of his girls. She wasn't his type. She had a brain.
"I'm asking you to accompany me to a family gathering where I will be tortured mercilessly by my family if I don't bring a date. They'll try and hook me up with every single female there." He made a gagging sound.
Having no sympathy whatsoever for one of New York City's most soughtafter eligible bachelors and topnotch neurosurgeons, Faith shrugged. "So take Lulu."
Lulu was the willowy blonde who'd accompanied Vale to a big charity ball the previous Saturday night. Faith had read about the event, seen a photo of the model plastered to Vale's side in the society section of the Sunday paper. An entire column had been dedicated to whether or not the exotic model would be able to get the Wakefield heir to the altar. Faith had wadded up the paper and tossed it in the trash, where such gossip belonged. Of course Vale wouldn't marry that woman.
"To quote you, 'Uhuh, no way.'" Vale emphasized each word. "Do you have any idea what type of problems I'd create if I brought Lulu or any woman with me to a family gathering, much less to a wedding?" He shuddered with all the drama of a person who'd just bit into the bitterest dish. "She'd be hearing wedding bells long before we got to the ceremony. There is absolutely no way I'd take a real date to my cousin's wedding." His intense blue eyes narrowed with the steely purpose that put most in a tizzy. "I'm taking you."
And that was where Faith fit into Vale's life.
Not a real date. Not someone he would consider dating or bringing to a New York City charity ball. Not someone he would consider loving or having a real relationship with. Not that any of Vale's relationships were real, not unless nostringsattached sex counted.
He'd pretty much just admitted that he didn't even see her as a woman. Great. She was a sexless brain.
Sucking in a deep breath, she shook her head. "No, thanks. Accompanying you to family functions is not in my job description."
He grinned the devilish smile that had her heart thumping overtime whenever he flashed his pearly whites. "I could have my attorney add an addendum to your contract."
"Forget it." She narrowed her gaze in as menacing a glare as she could pull off when he grinned at her that way. Why couldn't she be immune to him? After all, he was a brasize before brainsize typical male. "I'm not going to a wedding with you."
"I'd pay you."
As if that made one iota of difference. As a neurologist specializing in Parkinson's disease, she earned a good salary from her job. A job that didn't require her fending Vale off from wannabe bridezillas and wellintentioned family members.
He named a figure that made her head spin.
"No." Fighting to keep her composure, she picked up a stack of consult requests from the long mahogany table that occupied one side of the expansive room that served as his office. One by one, she flipped through them, sorting out the more urgent cases that she wanted to discuss as possible surgical candidates with Vale.
He crossed the room, standing so close that if she'd turned toward him she'd likely bump him. She wouldn't look, wouldn't turn, but would he please quit staring at her?
"You might as well concede, Faith." He put his hand on her shoulder, eliciting a thousand tiny shivers that caused tremors all the way to her very core. "In the long run I always get what I want."
He was right. He did always get what he wanted. With women. In life. Vale Wakefield led a gilded life. One where he'd been blessed with money, looks, intelligence, gifted surgical hands, and that something more that just made him impossible not to like. Women wanted him. Men wanted to be him. Little old ladies made him cookies and cakes, for heaven's sake.
At work she could maintain distance, keep her unwanted attraction to him safely tucked away, but at a wedding? Would he take one look at her and realize she dreamed of being the one he danced with at ballroom charities? The one warming his bed? A wedding.
Not even for Vale would she face another wedding.
She was not going to give in. He did not have to get his way with her every time he crooked his finger. This time he'd passed the limits of her endurance.
"What I want is for you to come with me to my mother's this weekend and accompany me to Sharon's wedding."
Faith dropped the consults onto the table, turned to face him, anger sparking deep in her chest. Why did he just assume that she was at his beck and call 24/7? "Did it ever occur to you that I might already have plans for this weekend? That I might have a life outside work?"
Rarely was Vale caught off guard. Even more rarely did he show shock when someone actually did surprise him. But the darkening of his pupils gave clue to the fact that he truly had never given any thought that she might not live every moment in hopes of him deigning to ask her to work late, to come in over the weekend to review an important surgery case, to drop everything and go to his cousin's wedding with only four days' notice.
Of course, he hadn't given any thought to her potential plans. Why would he? He didn't find her attractive and apparently couldn't imagine anyone else doing so. Why wouldn't she be available at his every whim?
Which hit a bit too close to home.
Faith's teeth ground together. Sure, she wasn't glamorous like the women he dated. She couldn't be even if she tried. Not with her stickstraight dishwater blond hair, plain green eyes, and too big mouth. Still, his splitsecond shock at the possibility that someone might want to spend time with her for nonwork purposes hurt. Hurt so deeply that had she put her hand to her chest to find her life blood seeping out, it wouldn't have surprised her.
Because whether she'd wanted to or not, she'd fallen head over heels in lust with Vale the day she'd come to work for him eighteen months ago.
Eighteen months of the sweetest mix of pleasure and pain at working so closely with him and him never seeing her as anything more than a neurologist who shared his passion for finding a cure for Parkinson's disease. Which was for the best, really, since a onenight stand, which was all he ever seemed to do, would only destroy her career with Wakefield and Fishe Neurology, Inc.
"This isn't up for debate. I'm not going to your cousin's wedding." She really wished he wasn't standing so close. So close she could make out the darker blue rim surrounding his vivid eyes, so close she could smell the musky scent of his aftershave, so close she could press her body to his with only a step forward.
Gee, if she stripped naked, would he even notice she was a woman? Or would he just frown, tell her to get dressed, they had more brain mapping to do? That her attraction to him was simply her olfactory mucosa sensing the overly abundant androgens he emitted, causing her cortisol levels to skyrocket, and that was why she wanted to lean in and press her lips to his throat?
"You already have plans this weekend?" he pushed. Just as she should have known he would. The spoiled little rich boy in him couldn't stand to lose, not get his way. Her fate had been sealed before the conversation had started.
"Somewhere you are supposed to be that you can't attend with me?" His eyes pierced her, seeming to know the truth without her having to answer.
She wanted to lie, wanted to say that some gorgeous man was anxiously awaiting Friday evening so he could whisk her off her feet, wine her, dine her, make her Cortisol level go through the roof, and show her the time of her life.
"I don't have specific plans" unless cleaning her apartment and walking Yoda, her miniature poodle, counted "but that isn't the point."
His expression brightened. "Of course it's the point. You don't have specific plans. I need you to accompany me to Cape May. We'll review the latest data from Brainiac Codex while we're there and make the weekend a working one so it won't be an entire lost cause. It'll be perfect."
"No, it won't be perfect. I do not want to go with you to a wedding in Southern New Jersey." Neither did she want to spend her weekend reviewing the computerized brainmapping research they were conducting. Yes, she loved her job, but she'd actually thought that with him out of town for the weekend she'd have some time to herself for once.
Why was she bothering to argue with him? Why did she think she could dissuade him when he'd set his mind to something? No one could, least of all her.
Still, she stubbornly held on to her pride. "No. No. No."
"Don't you like weddings?" Creases marred his forehead. "What am I saying?" He shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. "All women like weddings."
Maybe in his world, but not hers.
"Not this woman."
His brow lifted and she knew she'd said the wrong thing, revealed too much. stubborn was one thing, stupid quite another.
"Why not?" he asked, as if she'd tell him about just how many weddings she'd been to as her mother's maid of honor. Obviously one too many as just the thought of going to another made her histamine concentration double. Any moment she'd break out in hives. She scratched an already itchy spot on her neck.
"I just don't." No matter how much he pried, she wasn't going to tell him more.
He studied her a moment, then dismissed her comment as too inconsequential to be taken seriously when in opposition to his wishes.
"You'll like this one," he assured her. "My cousin Sharon never does anything halfway, and she's marrying the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback. You'll have fun."
"Sure, I will. That's why you're so excited about going. Because of how much fun you'll have." Faith sighed. He wasn't going to be dissuaded. Wasn't going to let her off the hook. Whether she wanted to or not, she was going to be spending the weekend at Vale's family's beach house in Cape May, a couple hours' drive south of the city. As his date to his media darling cousin's wedding. The paparazzi loved Sharon Wakefield and the former beauty queen was never far from the press's spotlight.
"Okay, you're right." He grinned at his admission. "Weddings aren't my thing, but Sharon is my favorite cousin and I'm in the wedding party. It isn't as if I can send an exorbitant gift and beg out of this one."
"Like you usually do with family and friends' gettogethers?" He was in the wedding party? Although the media knew of the upcoming nuptials, the exact details were very hushhush. Faith hadn't realized when she'd heard Vale mention his cousin's wedding to the famous football player that he'd be wearing a tuxedo and standing near the alter. Experiencing Vale in a tuxedo was quite possibly worth whatever heartache she'd suffer at attending yet another wedding that would only serve to remind her that nothing was for ever despite promises made.
He waggled his dark brows. "You'd better believe it."
"Fine, I'll go." It wasn't as if he'd give her a choice when all was said and done. He'd be like a dog with a bone and gnaw away at her protective covering until he sank his teeth into her vulnerable center.
His perfect mouth curved into a devilish smile. "I knew you would."
He could have at least sounded surprised, not quite so cocksure. Then again, that was Vale. Always confident. Always sure. Always a winner.
"Let's start going through these." She motioned to the latest data on their brainmapping research that would hopefully lead the way to new treatment modalities for neurological disorders. "I've got to be in clinic at nine."
Twenty minutes later, Vale leaned back in his chair, staring across the table at the godsend he'd hired based solely on gut instinct a year and a half ago. There hadn't been an actual opening for another neurologist at Wakefield and Fishe Neurology, but quite frankly the young woman who'd finagled an appointment with him had impressed the hell out of him.
He'd learned long ago after a few eyeopening experiences to trust his gut and his gut had said not to let this one go. He'd hired her on the spot.
Even now he could hear her stunned "Don't you want to check my references first?"
He'd stared straight into her big sparkly eyes that made him think of the green apple hard candy he'd loved as a boy. Her dull framed glasses couldn't hide their appeal or their honesty. The ugly frames still didn't.
He'd never regretted his decision that day.
Faith was more like his righthand man er woman. When he'd been awarded a grant to do research on Parkinson's, which involved the surgical implantation of an innovative twolead device that emitted electrical impulses at the brain stem, he'd immediately convinced Faith to come on board. In the office and with his research they were a team. Working as many hours as he did, she never disappointed him, often pointing out fresh angles to cases, looking at the facts with intelligence and with an outofthebox canniness that almost matched his own. More and more he relied on her insight, on her thoughts as to the best way to approach each patient.