Hardworking cardiologist Kady Pulaski was dedicated to healing people. Now a patient was dead and her own life was on the line. One man could keep her safe. She knew him only as Byron, the handsome, ...
Hardworking cardiologist Kady Pulaski was dedicated to healing people. Now a patient was dead and her own life was on the line. One man could keep her safe. She knew him only as Byron, the handsome, enigmatic
bodyguard sworn to protect her from a killer's vengeance. But once desire ignited, Kady faced a different kind of danger.
With Kady the only witness to his employer's murder, Byron Kennedy wasn't taking any chances. Keeping the beautiful doctor alive was the ex-cop's first priority. Giving in to passion was a risk, but Byron knew he had to follow his heart no matter where it might lead.
This USA TODAY bestselling and RITA ® Award-winning author has written more than two hundred books for Harlequin Books and Silhouette Books, some under the name Marie Nicole. Her romances are beloved by fans worldwide. Visit her website at www.marieferrarella.com.
There were times, like now, as she tried to get comfortable against the soft black leather seat of the limo, that Dr. Leokadia Pulaski felt she might have chosen the wrong field to give her heart and soul to. If she'd been a dermatologist, there would be no midnight calls rousing her out of sleep, forcing her to jolt her mind awake as she haphazardly pulled clothes on her body and tried to retrieve the directions to Patience Memorial Hospital out of her fogenshrouded brain. To Kady's knowledge, no one ever placed an emergency call before dawn because a pimple had made a sudden, unscheduled and drastic appearance.
But they did with cardiologists.
Exhausted as she was, feeling as if she'd been run over by two tractor trailers, the thought of changing fields, of leaving cardiology and her heart—no pun intended—was tempting.
Yet there was absolutely nothing in the world like the high she sustained when she managed to save someone's life. Or the feeling of accomplishment that arose by putting someone on the path that would steer him or her away from that dreaded midnight call and that life-threatening, searing pain.
Kady knew she was exactly what she wanted to be. A cardiologist associated with a top-ranked New York hospital. The same hospital where her two older sisters, Sasha and Natalya, practiced. She was good at what she did and she was proud of it.
Kady hung on to that thought as she sat in the back of the elegant stretch limousine that wove its way like a determined bullet through the just-post-dawn traffic. Its destination—the Plageanos Building where Milos Plageanos, the shipping magnate, had his penthouse apartment.
Thewords rumbled out of the mouth of the dark-haired man sitting opposite her. The man who had been sent to bring her back. Tall, close to stone-faced, the black overcoat he had on strained against muscles that were a prerequisite in his line of work.
She only knew him by one name. Byron. Whether that was his first or last, she had no idea.
As far as Milos was concerned, Byron's job was to guard his body and to fetch his cardiologist on those occasions when his breath became short and his chest felt as if it was constricting.
They—she, Milos and Byron—had met in the emergency room two years ago when Byron had rushed in, carrying his employer in his arms. Milos had had a minor TIA, which amounted to a misunderstanding between his veins and his heart. The man had been at a club located two and a half blocks from the hospital. Something one of the ladies in his company had suggested, or possibly done, had resulted in the sudden need for medical attention. Byron had been vague about that when she'd asked.
Kady had been on duty that night, and when the nurse had pointed her out to him, Byron had been quick to commandeer her. She'd assessed the situation and had Milos feeling "good as new—better even" according to his own words within a couple of hours. Grateful and somewhat smitten, Milos had tried to hire her as his personal physician.
She had turned him down gently and found herself besieged with flowers, cards and gifts, all of which she sent back with thanks. As was his hallmark, Milos continued to be persistent. Eventually a compromise was struck.
Like all the physicians of her generation, Kady did not make house calls. Patients who found themselves in sudden need of her services met her in the emergency room of Patience Memorial Hospital. But Milos Plageanos was not the average patient. There had never been anything average about the man. Born to wealth, he had carefully overseen his inheritance until the name Plageanos became synonymous with the top shipping empire in the world. In the past forty years, there had been many challenges for the title. So far, only one had come close, causing a bitter rivalry to rage.
Milos was accustomed to putting a price on everything and was in turn surprised, annoyed and then greatly impressed when she turned down his lucrative offer. But he had not gotten to his present position in life by taking no for an answer. Accepting that she wouldn't be his personal physician, he still wanted her services whenever he felt he needed them. Since money in her own pocket didn't sway her, Milos decided to get to her by way of her generous heart. He informed her that he was donating enough money to Patience Memorial Hospital to build a new pediatric-cardiology wing, something he'd learned was dear to her heart. As if that wasn't enough, he also donated liberally to the free medical clinic where she and her sisters volunteered once a week.
"I am a man no one turns down completely," he had proudly informed her when she came to thank him for his generosity.
Delivered by anyone else, the words would have made her balk. But aside from being shrewd and canny when it came to investments, when he wanted to, Milos could be very charming.
"A beautiful woman always brings that out in me," he had confided as he had kissed her hand, sealing their bargain. It was understood that he would continue making donations to the clinic so long as he could count on her to come when he needed her. Because the clinic needed so much in the way of equipment and supplies, she had no choice but to agree.
To his credit, he didn't abuse their bargain. In two years she'd only been summoned to his bedside twice. This made number three.
"Thank you," she murmured, taking the fine china cup that Byron offered. Milos believed in nothing but the best. She had no doubt that the cup was probably worth one week's pay at the hospital.
Kady took her coffee black, no cream, no sugar. Nothing to detract from the actual purpose of the drink.
Two sips later, Kady felt as if her mind was getting back into focus. She'd spent a good part of the night in the E.R., attending Wanda Kessler.
According to Wanda's husband, she had taken herself off her medication. Lucky for Mrs. Kessler, the woman had only had a minor heart attack. Just enough to put the fear of mortality into her.
After doing a thorough workup on her, Kady had signed the woman in overnight for further observation. Leaving the hospital, she'd just gotten in and dropped facedown on her bed in the apartment she shared with two of her sisters, Natalya and Tatania—now that Sasha had gotten married— when her cell phone had started to ring. For the space of a minute, she'd had an overwhelming desire to ignore it, but she didn't. She never did.
Bringing the cell phone close to her, she'd mumbled hello only to hear Byron's deep, authoritative voice rumbling in her ear. She knew what that meant. He was on his way to get her.
Kady barely had time to get off the bed and put her shoes back on before Byron was at the door. She'd stumbled out the door, asking questions about Milos's condition. He'd responded by saying that was what she was for, to assess the man's condition. Byron had helped her on with her coat as they made their way to the elevator. She remembered thinking that for a large man, he had a very light touch.
"How is he?" she asked again once the coffee became part of her system.
Byron was a man of few words, most of them noncommittal. Technically, she'd known him for two years and still knew nothing beyond what she saw, which, while very easy on the eyes and very pleasing, didn't satisfy her need to know.
"He wants to see you," Byron replied.
She suppressed an annoyed sigh. "That's not answering my question."
His wide shoulders rose and fell in a vague movement. Rather than look away, his deep blue eyes met hers. "I'm not the doctor, you are."
They were playing games, and this morning, she wasn't in the mood for it. While she appreciated Milos's generosity, she didn't like the idea of being regarded as a puppet. He pulled the string; she danced. The image didn't appeal to her.
"You know, maybe Mr. Plageanos should have a doctor on staff," she suggested.
Byron looked mildly amused. "He offered you the job but you wouldn't take it."
And she still wouldn't. To her, being a doctor had never been about the money, it had been about the helping. About the good she could do. And about the fact that Mama was very proud of having so many doctors in the family. The last thought made her smile.
"I'm not the only cardiologist in New York." Byron regarded her for a long moment. In his experience, she was a rarity. A beautiful woman who didn't try to use her looks for gain. Most women in her position would have had some kind of arrangement with Plageanos that did more than repair faulty wiring and buy X-ray machines for a Spanish Harlem clinic.
"You know Mr. Plageanos. He wants what he wants and nothing else will do." His lips moved into a slight smile. It was all she'd ever seen him capable of. "He's paying you a big compliment."
She knew that in Milos's mind, wanting her for his personal doctor was the ultimate compliment. "I appreciate that. But being a one-patient doctor is not the way I see my life going. Mr. Plageanos can afford to have anyone he wants attending him." She thought of the clinic, of the defensive, frightened faces she came across almost every time she went. There was so much anger there, so much resentment at the world that had coldly passed them by. Charity seemed like just that: charity. "A lot of people can't even afford to buy aspirin."
His expression gave nothing away. "Not going to get rich that way, Doc."
To which she smiled and shook her head. He was wrong there. "There are a lot of definitions of rich, Byron."
Byron merely nodded his dark head. Crossing his ankle over his thigh, he sat taking quiet measure of her.
She felt as if she was under a microscope. What was he thinking about her? she couldn't help wondering. She decided to turn the tables on him.
"What about you?" she asked, edging closer on her seat. "Don't you want to do anything different with your life than be at Mr. Plageanos's beck and call?"
"I've done 'different,'" he told her, his tone dismissing whatever that "different" entailed. "This suits me fine."
He paused for a moment, and she had the feeling he was debating saying something more. But whatever it was, she never got to hear it because he didn't open his mouth.
And then, before she could try to coax anything further from him, they were pulling up before the massive structure that Milos had put his name to when he bought the apartment building.
Each time she saw the building, a monument to the marriage of glass and steel, she was that much more impressed. And that much happier that she'd grown up in her parents' small two-story house in Queens. The forty-two-story building was a testimony to Milos's taste and his money. The lobby boasted original paintings from Milos's private collection. Nonetheless, it felt cold, distant.
They stepped into the elevator, and Byron pressed for the penthouse apartment. Kady swallowed twice, equalizing the pressure in her ears, before they reached their destination.
A white marble floor stretched out before them when the elevator doors finally opened. Waiting for her to get out first, Byron shortened his stride to match hers.
"I'd need a road map just to find my way around," she murmured, still as overwhelmed by the layout as she had been the first time she'd been brought here.
"You get used to it," Byron replied with a dismissive shrug.
The way he said it had her wondering. "Do you live on the premises?" Her words mingled with the echo of her heels on the marble floor. It had a mournful sound about it.
Byron looked down at her before answering. "Mr. Plageanos likes his people close by."
Close was not a word she would have associated with the premises. God only knew how many people could actually live within the structure without once bumping into one another. "Doesn't your wife mind not having a place of her own?"
She thought she heard a slight sound, something akin to a short laugh, escape his lips. "She might. If I still had one."
Still. Which meant he'd had one once. Kady pressed her lips together. She'd done it again. Even though she tried to curb it, she had a habit of probing; she always had. Her father had told her more than once that it would get her in trouble one day.