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Just What the Doctor Ordered
Dr. Quent Ladd had dedicated his life to bringing babies into the world, but that didn't mean he was ready to have his own. So when this very confirmed bachelor suddenly found himself the guardian of two beautiful, rambunctious young children, he needed help badly—and he turned to his very best friend. Psychologist Amy Ravenna was stunned to receive a proposal of marriage—in name only!—from the man she was secretly in love with. But if she had ...
Just What the Doctor Ordered
Dr. Quent Ladd had dedicated his life to bringing babies into the world, but that didn't mean he was ready to have his own. So when this very confirmed bachelor suddenly found himself the guardian of two beautiful, rambunctious young children, he needed help badly—and he turned to his very best friend. Psychologist Amy Ravenna was stunned to receive a proposal of marriage—in name only!—from the man she was secretly in love with. But if she had anything to say about it, they were going to end up as much more than friends and this make-believe marriage was going to become the real thing.
"Seven pounds, three ounces. Ten fingers and toes," he told her, and double-checked the name on the bassinet. "Lisa, you passed your first test with flying colors. Next stop, Harvard."
Baby blue eyes blinked at him, not quite focusing. Then she sneezed.
"That's good," Quent said. "You can clear your airways with the best of them. I knew you were a winner."
He'd made a thorough test of her reflexes, heartbeat, breathing and other parameters. All normal. He was glad for her sake and for that of her numerous doting relatives, who had overflowed the waiting room during her birth.
It was one more happy event for Doctors Circle, a private hospital and clinic established in Serene Beach, California, to ensure the best care for mothers, would-be mothers and their babies. As a newly minted neonatologist, Quent had been thrilled when he was invited to join the staff a couple of months ago.
While he was gently replacing the baby beneath her warmer light, Lisa's gaze connected, ever so briefly, with his. A sense of wonder spread through Quent as the little girl's future shimmered before him, from her first step to the day she would hold a baby of her own.
Where had all that come from? It wasn't as if he were going to be spending a lot of time with this particular infant, cute as she was. But it gave Quent a gut-level appreciation for the joy he saw on the faces of new fathers. Babies had always interested him from a clinical point of view, but lately he'd begun to take a more personal interest. This was the most intense experience yet.
Perhaps it was because he'd spent so much time this past year with his now fifteen-month-old niece and four-year-old nephew. Or maybe it had something to do with finally, at age twenty-nine, having finished his training and taken his place as a full-fledged specialist.
Turning away, he stripped off his gloves and picked up his clipboard to finish his notes. Then, smiling, Quent paced through the dimly lit nursery, saying hello to babies he'd checked in the past day or two. He would see them again when their parents brought them for regular care at the Well-Baby Clinic in an adjacent building, where he spent most of his hours.
Before leaving the nursery, he removed his white coverall and stuffed it into a laundry container to be sterilized. A nurse, Sue Anne, greeted him with a flare of interest on her face.
Quent wasn't sure why he didn't invite her to join him for dinner, since it was almost five o'clock on a Friday night. She was pretty and friendly, and, until recently, he'd enjoyed playing the field. These days, though, he'd lost interest in spending time with anyone except his best buddy.
Having a woman, even a colleague like psychologist Amy Ravenna, as his best buddy was unusual, he supposed. Still, they'd started attending ball games and playing sports together as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and going with the flow suited Quent.
Speak of the devil, when he emerged from the nursery, there she stood, Amy in the flesh, gazing through the window at the babies. Among the usual scattering of cooing grandparents, aunts and uncles, her tall, slim figure stood out.
In profile to him, Amy studied first one baby, then another. As the staff psychologist, she must be treating the parents of one or more infants, Quent figured. Checking out the newborns apparently figured into her counseling strategy, although he could have sworn he saw wistfulness in her expression.
He'd never met anyone with such an intriguing mixture of professionalism and tomboy enthusiasm. It amused him to see how, this late in the day, her black French braid was beginning to unravel behind her tailored suit jacket.
"Hey," he said.
Startled, Amy swung around. "Oh! Hi, Quent." He noticed, as he did every time he saw her, how stunning she was, with her high cheekbones and lively dark eyes, and how utterly unaware she was of it. No wonder she had to fend men off with a stick.
"What brings you here?" With a teasing note, he added, "Coming to see me, I hope."
"As a matter of fact, yes. Before I left for the day, I wanted to ask you about the rain," she said.
"It's raining?" Mid-November was well into the southern California rainy season, but it had been only partly cloudy earlier this afternoon.
"Not yet. It's in the forecast for tomorrow. We're supposed to catch the tail of a hurricane that's lingering down off Mexico," Amy said. "Do you want to cancel our plans?"
"I'm not afraid of a little water. Are you?" He already knew the answer, but challenging each other was part of the fun.
Soon after he'd arrived in Serene Beach, he'd run into Amy at the sports-oriented Paris Bar and recognized her as a colleague. That first night, they'd battled each other at video games until their eyes crossed from overuse. Soon they were jogging together, watching ball games and simply hanging out after work, with no strings attached. Amy was never flirtatious as other women were.
At first, that had been a relief. Lately, it had occurred to Quent that maybe, being four years older than him and accustomed to more sophisticated men, she considered him too young for anything more involved than going to the movies. He might surprise her one of these days.
"Afraid of water? Certainly not." She sniffed in feigned indignation. "The fact is, I figured you might wimp out on me. It's going to be hard enough jogging in the sand when you're not used to it, without having to deal with a downpour, too."
"If you can handle sand, so can I." He couldn't resist adding, "I'll probably run you ragged."
"I'll bet you won't." The way Amy lifted her chin reminded him that she'd held her own in a household with three brothers.
"You're on for tomorrow," he said.
"My place. Three o'clock."
"I'll be there." He was looking forward to it.
Excerpted from Prescription: Mary Her Immediately by Jacqueline Diamond Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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