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Dirk Travis is in trouble. His wife has gone missing, and his housekeeper is threatening to quit. He is in desperate need of a reliable person to ...
Dirk Travis is in trouble. His wife has gone missing, and his housekeeper is threatening to quit. He is in desperate need of a reliable person to look after his four-year-old twins. Even though Julia appears to be the answer to his prayers he can't help but think she's a bit too perfect.
Both insist their relationship will be business only. While those plans start to go awry, other things begin to happen. People are getting killed and Dirk is the prime suspect, but that doesn't stop the heat index from rising between Dirk and Julia, even as she appears to be the next target.
Colorado rancher seeking live-in
Nanny for energetic four-year-old twins.
Basic first aid a necessity.
Skilled in piano, swimming, and horses a plus. Good wages, time off, and private living quarters.
Minimum three references required.
Zero tolerance for dishonesty.
Contact Dirk Travis,
Julia Morgan finished reading the ad and turned hostile green eyes up to glare at her sister. "What is this, Katie, some kind of a joke?"
"Not at all," Katie said. "That ad was written with you in mind. You swim, you play piano, and well, I'd say you can handle basic first aid."
"I didn't study medicine for eight years to be a nanny."
Katie grunted. "You also speak three languages and play a mean piano, yet you haven't touched the keys or seen a patient for eight weeks. Are you planning to sit around and mope for the rest of your life?"
"I'm not moping, dammit, I'm depressed. You're the psychiatrist; can't you recognize depression when you see it?"
"Sure, I also recognize self-pity. And, Julia, you're up to your ears in it."
"I have good reasons."
"Well yes, I'll grant you that. You divorced your no-good cheating husband, and since he was the chief-of-staff at the hospital, he made it impossible for you to stay on. What can I say, Geno Campanili is an ass, I'm glad you took your maiden name back. I wish I had. You know, County Med isn't the only hospital in Minneapolis. Surely with seven years practicing medicine behind you--"
"You're way off base and you know it."
Katie took a deep breath. "Okay, I know it's more than the divorce and losing your job. I'm sorry, but you need to dealwith this."
Scalding wet tears welled up in Julia's eyes. "I lost my babies; my precious twins. Do you really think taking care of somebody else's twins will make up for that?"
Katie sat down and put an arm around her sister. "Julia, you're three years older than me and I've always looked up to you. With Mom and Dad gone, we're the only family we have, there's nobody on this earth I love more than you. That's why I'm telling you it's time to get on with your life. I know that sounds cliché but I don't know any better way to say it. Get out there and start living again. Look at you--every time I come over here you have that same old gray sweat suit on. For God's sake, it's the Fourth of July, get out and do something."
Julia pushed a hand through her shoulder-length auburn hair and brushed a tear from her cheek. "I'm not ready."
Katie hesitated a moment, then sighed. "You've never told me what happened that night you miscarried a perfectly healthy five-month pregnancy, but if I ever find out Geno had anything to do with it, I swear I'll personally kill him."
"People go to jail for murder, Katie."
"Yeah, well we both know that doesn't always happen. Are you afraid of him, Julia?"
"Can we change the subject?"
Katie gave Julia a sad smile. "Of course, I didn't want to talk about bygones anyway. You need to start creating a new past."
Julia blinked away her tears and smiled. "Spoken like a true professional."
Katie grinned. "Okay, let's get back to the ad. I think it's an omen. I had nothing to do during my three-hour layover in Denver, so I picked up a paper lying on the seat beside me and here's this ad right in front of me with a big yellow highlighted circle around it. I knew immediately that 'rancher' was looking for you. His requirements fit you perfectly."
"You're hallucinating, Katie, I've never sat on a horse in my life."
"Three out of four isn't too bad. Besides, it's a lot easier to learn to ride a horse than it is to play piano."
"I told you, I'm not going to waste a medical degree being a nanny."
Katie rolled her cocoa colored eyes. "What have you been doing with your degree for the last two months? You wouldn't have to do it forever. Just promise you'll think about it. Don't worry about the references. I have more than three friends whose children you've treated, and any of them will be happy to put in a good word for you."
Julia finally laughed. "You're actually taking this seriously, aren't you?"
"Like I said, it's an omen." Katie grinned. "And the best part of all, it's nine hundred miles away. You can just disappear and Geno will never know what happened to you."
The next morning Julia was in the middle of typing her resume when the phone rang.
It was Geno.
"Hi, honey. How are you?"
Julia's stomach lurched. "What do you want, Geno?"
"Meet me for lunch. I'd like to talk to you."
It had taken all the fortitude she had to divorce him, and she couldn't back down now. Geno would hound her forever if she didn't stand up to him. "We have nothing more to say to each other. Our divorce is final and so is our life together."
"The divorce was a mistake, Julia. We belong together. I still love you, sweetheart."
Julia gritted her teeth. "Did you love me when you were screwing Lana Becker in your office?"
"I told you, Lana means nothing to me. You're the one I love. Let's at least talk about it."
"That might be possible if it were the first time. You and I both know there've been others." Julia drew a deep breath letting it out in a rush. "I shouldn't have been surprised, I guess. After all, I used to be one of those interns."
"You were different, I loved you."
"Did you also love Danielle and Mandy?"
"They were trash, Julia."
"Is that why they both lost their jobs?"
"I'm through, Geno. I'm going on with my life and you aren't in my plans."
Julia was about to hang up when Geno's chilling voice bit into her. "I hope your plans don't include practicing medicine. I can make that a little difficult for you."
"You can't stop me. County Med isn't the only hospital in town."
"No, but with your record, you won't get taken on anywhere else either."
"My record is impeccable."
"What about that little incident with the Nelson baby?"
Pain wrenched Julia along with the memory of a seven-month-old baby boy dying in her arms. "I couldn't have saved that child and you know it."
"No, but you might have been able to prevent it from happening."
"I had no way of knowing his father was abusing him. Besides, I was already cleared of that."
"Just between you and me, honey, records can be changed. There's likely to be a new development in that case."
"You bastard! Stay out of my life!" Julia slammed the phone down. Closing her eyes, breathing heavily, she pressed cold shaking hands to her warm face. She knew Geno all too well. He had the power to save lives, but he also had the power to destroy them. She'd seen him do it before.
Geno was one of the most sought after and respected surgeons in the city. Minneapolis was a big community, but when it came to the medical field, it was like a small town--everybody knew everyone else--at least those who'd made a name for themselves. Geno Campanili was at the top of that list. It was futile to try to explain her side of the story. Who would believe her? Who would believe that the renowned Dr. Campanili had a dark side that he kept hidden from the public? He didn't know where she lived, but he had too many connections, he could find her if he wanted too.
After two hours of pacing her small apartment, Julia called her sister's office.
The receptionist must have been out because Katie answered the phone. "This is Dr. Katie Benson."
"Julia! You changed your mind about the ad. You want to go to Colorado."
Julia shook her head. "What? Have you changed professions? You're a mind reader now?"
Katie shrugged. "I just know you, sis. Colorado could be good for you, and this rancher might be a handsome stud."
"After Geno, I've sworn off handsome studs. In fact, I'm not interested in men period. It's the children that intrigue me. I've always enjoyed kids; that's why I chose pediatrics. I think maybe it is time for a change of scenery, and while I'm there I can check out the local clinics in Denver."
"That would be great," Katie said. "I go through Denver regularly. I could see you almost as often as I do now."
"I'm going to think of this as a vacation. How hard can it be to take care of two four-year-olds? I don't even care about the money. Fortunately, Geno and I kept our finances separate. Since I was the saver, I don't have any financial worries."
"Plus you still have your trust fund."
"That's the only bright spot in this whole mess," Julia said. "I never told him about the clause. Ironic isn't it? The only way he could get his hands on Dad's money was if we had children together."
What Julia didn't tell Katie was that she hadn't been ready to have children with Geno. Even though he'd brought the trust fund up a few months before she'd actually gotten pregnant. There was a lot about Geno she couldn't tell her sister, even now after the divorce was final. Katie wouldn't understand--no one would understand why an educated successful woman would stay married to a man like Geno if they knew the full truth about him.
"I know he didn't want you to get pregnant, he used to say some baloney about you being all he needed. It was always about what he needed, wasn't it?"
"I don't want to talk about Geno," Julia said.
"That restriction Dad put on us has always teed me off. It's like he's trying to control our lives from the grave. I swear he left his money to us only because he had no one else to give it to. God, he was such a tightwad."
"He paid for our education. He expected us to use it to support ourselves."
"Stop making excuses for him, Julia. You're in denial. You know as well as I do what a control freak he was. I don't believe you'd ever have married Geno if Dad hadn't coerced you into it"
Julia's fingers squeezed down on the receiver. "That's a closed subject. Now stop psychoanalyzing me. Save it for your patients."
A heartbeat of silence hung between them before Katie spoke again, more softly. "I'm sorry. It's just that I want you to get out and start living again."
"All right, how do I go about answering this ad?" Julia asked, wanting to end the subject of both Geno and their father.
Katie's tone brightened immediately. "It's already done. I faxed your qualifications out yesterday."
"Katie, for an educated person, you can be such a twit. What if I hadn't wanted to go?"
"Ah, but I knew you would."
Julia bit back a frustrated reply. "Just what did you tell him? What about the references? And--"
"All taken care of."
"Katie, did you tell him I'm a doctor?"
"Of course not. He'd know you're grossly overqualified and he'd never hire you. Here's the fun part. I got a response back this morning. Stay put; I have two hours before my next appointment. I'll be over in fifteen minutes. Bye."
A resounding click echoed in Julia's ear. She stared at the phone a moment before snapping it firmly back in its cradle. Her hands were shaking.
Damn, her take-charge sister.
As much as she loved Katie, sometimes her sister went too far. Julia had wanted a few days to get used to the idea of going to Colorado. Maybe by then the position would have been filled--or she might have had time to change her mind. Of course, she still could, she told herself. Let Katie explain to the rancher what she'd done. It would serve her right.
Julia was still annoyed when the doorbell started ringing non-stop, Katie's signature announcement. She knew before she answered the door she couldn't stay angry with her overzealous younger sister. She loved Katie too much. She did manage to put a grim, disapproving expression on her face.
Katie burst into the house, ignoring Julia's stern look, waving a handful of papers. "You really did a good job writing this up, Julia. I couldn't have done it better myself."
"You did do it yourself. So help me, if you fabricated a ton of lies about me, I'm not going, and I may never speak to you again."
Katie handed Julia one of the papers. "Here, read it and tell me if everything isn't true."
Julia gave her sister a sideways glare, snapping the paper out of her hand. It held no more than a few scant lines of Katie's exquisite cursive penmanship.
In response to your ad for a nanny: I am very adept at handling children of all ages. I was on a swim team for three years and helped finance my way through school by giving piano lessons. My first aid skills are current and I have spent most of my adult life being a caregiver to children. I fear my knowledge of horses is limited, but I'm always open to learn new things. I also have a special interest in twins. I look forward to hearing from you.
Julia read it twice, looking for a flaw. She finally looked up at her self-satisfied grinning sister. "I don't remember ever being interested in horseback riding. I don't even think I like horses."
"You've always had a compulsion to learn new things. That's why you took language courses that weren't required, and practiced piano until your fingers swelled. I had the same number of lessons you did, and I barely managed Chopsticks."
"That's probably because you were more interested in painting and dance classes."
"Exactly." Katie explained. "That's why Mr. Dirk Travis is looking specifically for you."
"You're so full of it Katie--let me see the references you conned out of your friends."
Katie handed Julia three typed and signed letters.
With a skeptical glance at her sister, Julia quickly read the neatly typed references. The first one explained that Julia was instrumental in helping her son when he broke his arm. She took charge during an emergency situation, and saw to it that my son got the medical treatment he needed
Julia remembered that case. Her patient had a compound fracture. He came by ambulance, his mangled arm hanging loose, the bleeding stopped by paramedics. She'd prepped the boy and sent him into immediate surgery to straighten the arm and install a pin. The letter avoided the details but stuck with the truth.
The second, a two-year-old child had swallowed a hard candy. Julia worked ER duty the night he was brought in barely breathing. The letter gave her credit for saving the boy with fast thinking--no mention being made of her treating him as a physician.
The third letter written by Katie's next-door neighbor explained how she had come running over hysterical, screaming that her husband was having a seizure. It turned out to be a heart attack. Julia kept him breathing until the paramedics arrived to take over. It was something anyone with cardio pulmonary training could have done.
Julia released a long, heavy, sigh when she looked up at Katie. "What if he calls these people?"
"Not to worry. They all know the situation. I helped them rehearse their answers."
"You are an obnoxious brat, Katie. It's a good thing I love you anyway." Then Julia noticed that Katie had another paper in her hand. "Okay, what's that one?" she asked.
Katie held up the paper. "What this?"
Julia bristled. "What is it, Kate?"
"Oh, just Mr. Travis' reply."
"You got a reply already?"
Katie grinned, handing over the fax.
"I don't even want to know how you managed all this in such a short time," Julia said taking the letter.
My father has always warned me about something looking too good. Your qualifications are too perfect to believe, but I'm going with my own gut instinct on this.
This is extremely important to me, so rather than have a long distant phone conversation I'd prefer to meet you in person. Can you fly to Denver for an interview on Saturday? Come prepared to start immediately. If I decide you are not right for the job, I will pay you for your time and reimburse your expenses. I will do likewise if you find you are not up to the assignment.
I trust everything you have told me is truthful. If this plan works for you please fax your ETA so I can pick you up at the airport.
My children and I look forward to your arrival.
Posted November 26, 2012
## I truly enjoyed this story. The hero and heroine were both fantastic. There was suspense as well as romance with I definitely love in a book. The writing was superb. My only complaint is that the ending was too quick. After reading 500 pages I felt cheated out of a satisfying ending and therefore could only rate it 4 stars. In addition, one major question was left unanswered (would give too much away if I elaborate).
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Posted November 21, 2011
Jannifer sure knows how to write a fantastic romantic thriller and the chemistry between Dirk and Julia is simply electrifying. There were plenty of plot twists and turns keeping the reader engrossed in the book making a definite must read!!!!!!!!!!!
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Posted August 24, 2013