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The Millionaire Next Door
By Kara Lennox
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHudson Stack, M.D., sat in the office of George Blake Stimson, Chief of Surgery at Boston General, his irritation rising as he learned the results of his mandatory physical.
"Your blood pressure is in the red zone," George said, continuing a long harangue. "Your cholesterol is off the charts, your triglycerides are completely out of whack. Your caffeine consumption is three times what it ought to be. Your reflexes are slow, you're sleep deprived, and you're irritable. And no doctor, I don't care how famous or how popular, is going to operate on patients in my hospital when he's falling apart."
"Are you telling me I'm fired?" Hudson asked, alarmed. He'd had these little discussions with George before. Usually the crusty old surgeon warned him to take it easy, eat healthier, get more sleep, that sort of thing.
Hudson had believed his job was secure. He'd recently become the hospital's best public relations tool. Inventing an artificial valve that was going to save millions of lives had put Hudson's name in the medical journals. Saving the mayor's life with an emergency quintuple bypass had put his name in the headlines. Most recently, Boston Life magazine had named him "Boston's Hottest Bachelor," ensuring he remain in the public eye far longer than Hudson would have liked.
"Of course you're not fired. Administration would tar and feather me if I did that. But you are going on vacation, starting now."
"I can't," Hudson immediately replied. "I've got two surgeries in the morning and three more - "
"Those surgeries will be reassigned to other surgeons."
"You can't do that."
"I can and will do whatever it takes. Would you want a surgeon in your shape operating on your heart?"
"There's nothing wrong with me."
"Your test results speak differently."
Hudson knew that arguing was fruitless. George's word was like God's around here. Hudson could appeal to no one; no one would take his side.
"I suppose I could use a few days off," he finally said, grudgingly. And maybe it was true. He hadn't seen his daughter in a week - at least, not awake. He usually got home long after she was in bed. He would spend a few minutes just looking at Bethany as she slept, reassuring himself that she was fine.
"I'm not talking about a few days," George said.
"I want you to take off at least a month. And I want you to get far, far away from Boston and go someplace where nobody knows you. And I want you to learn to fish."
Hudson just sat there, stunned. A month? He couldn't take that long away from his work.
"Hudson, I'm not speaking now as your superior, but as your friend. You're a heart attack waiting to happen. Maybe not this week, or this year, but you're heading in that general direction. I even heard you were seen smoking."
"What snitch told you that?" He smoked two, maybe three cigarettes a day. Smoking gave him an excuse to slip outside, alone, and do nothing for a few minutes.
George rolled his eyes. He handed Hudson a piece of paper with an address and phone number on it. "Ed Hardison and I were in med school together. He lives in Texas. I want you to call him. He'll find a place for you to stay. He has a fishing boat and all the tackle."
This was like some drug-induced nightmare. Texas? In the summer? "You're serious about the fishing?"
"It's the best therapy for stress I can think of," George said with a dreamy look in his eye. "Take your kid. Spend a month or two doing absolutely nothing. After that, you'll have another physical. If you look better then, you can come back to work."
Hudson went straight home, cursing the entire time. He was just angry enough that he was going to call George's bluff. There were probably half a dozen hospitals in the Boston area drooling to have him on staff.
As he waited for an interminable traffic light to change, he checked his cell phone messages. Janey had called with a litany of reminders: have his tux cleaned, have his car serviced, call his aunt on her birthday tomorrow. Oh, and the Heart Association fund-raiser was Friday night.
His mother had called with a similar list - and he was planning to take Janey to the fund-raiser, right?
He sighed. He hated black-tie affairs, but they were a necessary evil, he supposed. At least he never had to scrounge for a date. Janey was always available. He probably should just marry her and get it over with. He knew she would say yes if he asked. Lord knew she'd been hinting at it long enough.
Another message was from some radio station that wanted to interview him. He erased that one. The last thing he wanted was more publicity.
The final three messages were from women he'd never heard of who thought they were just what a lonely but rich doctor might need to make his life complete. He made a mental note to have his phone number changed - again.
He parked his Jaguar at the curb and stomped through the front door of his Back Bay brownstone. Though he owned two other houses, he'd bought this one because it was close to the hospital. He'd intended to spend only an occasional night here, when he didn't want to face a long drive home late at night. But he'd found it so convenient, he'd ended up living here full-time.
He headed straight for his home office. But the sound of a little girl's laughter stopped him.
Bethany. Guilt needled his conscience. He really should spend more time with her. Though his mother and mother-in-law took turns caring for Bethany, and they both seemed anxious for the privilege, nothing took the place of a father's love and attention. He set down his briefcase and headed up the stairs to the living room. It was lunchtime. He would eat lunch with Bethany, he decided. Then he would figure out his next move.
He found Bethany sitting on the floor of the living room watching TV. She had spread the sofa cushions all over the Persian rug in some game of pretend, and was now sprawled across them, her thumb in her mouth.
"Bethany!" his mother, Judith, called from the dining room. "Lunch is ready. Come quickly, now, before it gets cold."
Excerpted from The Millionaire Next Door by Kara Lennox Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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