Dr. Phoebe Johnson might have sworn off all men, and moved all the way to Australia to escape her cheating fiancé, but her new bossdashing Dr. Heath Rollinsis just so hard to resist
Single dad Heath's sole focus is his precious son, Oscar. Yet every year his little son wishes for a mommy. Now, with vivacious Phoebe igniting a fire in Heath's heart and opening his eyes to a whole new world, could all their dreams come true this Christmas?
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About the Author
Married to the man she met at eighteen, Susanne is the mother of two adult daughters, Orianthi and Tina. Her varied career titles have included dental nurse, personal assistant, contract manager and now Medical Romance author. The family also extends to a maltese shih-tzu, a poodle, three ducks and four hens. Susanne has always read romance novels and says, ‘I love a happy ever after so writing for Mills & Boon is a dream come true.’
Read an Excerpt
Dr Heath Rollins momentarily looked away from the emails on his laptop computer, across the living room of the family home, to see his father sitting by the lace dressed bay window in his favourite armchair. With the mid-morning sunlight streaming into the room, he was intently reading the paper. Heath smiled a bittersweet smile as his gaze roamed to the old oversized chair, upholstered in green and blue tartan. It was a piece of furniture his mother had tried to have re-covered or removed from their home for many years but Ken Rollins had been adamant that it stayed. And stayed exactly as it was. It was a Clan Sutherland tartan, of the Highland Clans of Scotland, Heath would hear his father tell his mother, and it had direct links to the maternal side of his family. She would tell him that family connections or not, it was an extremely unattractive chair that looked out of place in their new French provincial decor. Frankly, it was hideous and it just didn't belong.
His mother and father had argued about very little except that chair. But, unlike all those years ago, now his father was stuck in that now slightly worn chair for hours on end, his leg elevated and his knee freshly dressed after surgery. And there were no more arguments about the chair as Heath's mother had passed away twenty years ago.
Heath then caught sight of his own suitcases, stacked against the hall wall, with the airline tags still intact. He would shortly be taking them to the room that would be his for the next month. His attention returned to the email he was drafting to the Washington-based podi-atric surgeon travelling to Australia to work with his father. As he perused her résumé to find an email address, he couldn't help but notice her impressive qualifications and certifications. A quizzical frown dressed his brow as he wondered why she had chosen to relocate to Adelaide and consult at his father's practice. Then he dropped that line of thought. It was not his concern.
'I hope you don't mind the last-minute change in plans, Dr Phoebe Johnson,' he muttered as he pressed 'send' on the keyboard, hoping that even if she had turned off her computer she would receive the notification via her mobile phone. 'It looks like you'll be working with me not my father. At least until he's back on his feet again.'
Phoebe Johnson had switched off her cell phone an hour earlier. There was no point in having it on as there was only one person who would try to reach her and she would go to any lengths to avoid another conversation with her mother.
Unfortunately her mother had found her.
'Why on earth are you leaving Washington? It's been over three months since you postponed the wedding, Phoebe. It's time you set a new date.'
'I cancelled the wedding, Mother. I didn't postpone it.'
Completely dumbfounded, and shaking her head, Phoebe stood on the steps of her rented brownstone apartment, her online printed boarding pass and her passport both gripped in one leather-gloved hand while the other searched for keys in her oversized handbag. The second of her matching tweed suitcases was balanced precariously by her feet, and her heavy woollen coat was buttoned up against the icy December wind that was howling down the narrow car-lined street.
She found her keys and, aware that the meter was running on the double-parked cab, hurriedly locked the front door. She was in no mood for another confrontation and frustrated that at the eleventh hour it was happening again. Her mind was made up. She was not looking back.
'How can you work things out if you go rushing off to another country? Surely you've punished Giles enough for his indiscretion?' her mother continued, not at all deterred by anything Phoebe had said, nor by her imminent travel plans. 'I'm certain he's learnt his lesson.'
Phoebe tugged down her knitted hat, at risk of blowing away in a chilly gust, then made her way down the snow-speckled steps with her last suitcase and handed it to the cab driver, who had been tapping his foot impatiently on the kerb.
'It isn't a punishment, Mother. I ended it. I gave the ring back, returned the wedding presents and told Giles that I never want to see him again. It's about as final as it gets. And I've thought this through until I've gone almost mad. You don't seem to understandI no longer love Giles and I don't want to see him again. Ever. To be honest, I'm surprised that after everything he's put me through you'd want him to have any part in my life.'
She paused as she looked long and hard at her mother, completely bemused that they saw the situation so very differently.
'He's not the man for me. I don't know if there even is a man for me, but right now I'm not looking. I want to put all my energy into my work and I refuse to waste another second on Giles.'
With that said, Phoebe headed to the waiting cab. The headlights of the oncoming traffic were reflected on the icy road as night began to fall.
'That seems so harsh. He really does regret his behaviour. His mother told me so over our bridge game yesterday,' her mother continued as she followed Phoebe, her pace picking up with each step. 'Please see reason, Phoebe. Giles is committed to making it up to you. He's apparently not at all his usual jovial, outgoing self at the moment. He's taken the postponement very seriously. Esme said he's quite sullen, and that's not like him. She thinks he's turned over a new, more responsible leaf. He's sown his last wild oat.'
She placed her gloved hand over Phoebe's as her daughter reached for the door handle of the cab. Stepping closer, she dropped her voice almost to a whisper.
'Darling, you could do worse. Giles is so very handsomeand let's not forget his family tree. His ancestors arrived on the Mayflower'
Phoebe rolled her eyes in horror that her perfectly coiffed mother, dressed in her favourite New York designer's latest winter collection, was pulling out both the looks and the ancestry cards. She watched the driver close the trunk, walk to his door and climb inside.
Pulling her hand free, she responded in an equally low voice. 'Let me see My sulking but extremely good-looking ex-fiancé, with his impeccable lineage, is apparently committed to me but isn't averse to sleeping with other women. Please, Mother, let's not try to paint him as something he isn't. I don't think he is capable of loving anyone but himself, and I don't believe for a minute that he's turned over a new leaf. And, frankly, I don't care. He ruined any chance of us being husband and wife when he chose to cheat on me.'
She kissed her mother goodbye and climbed into the cab, then dropped the window to hear the last of her mother's not so wise words.
'Darling, as your grandmother always said, every man is entitled to one big mistake in life.'
'He slept with both of my bridesmaids the weekend before our weddingthat's not one big mistake that's two enormous, deal-breaking mistakes!' Phoebe's voice was no longer soft or controlled and she didn't mind if the cab driver heard. Her frustration had limited her ability to care.
'If you want to be technical, it's two but couldn't you see fit to consider it Giles's one weekend of poor judgement and call it the same mistake?'
The cab pulled away and Phoebe slumped back into the cold leather seat. Over the rattling of the engine she heard her mother's parting words.
'Darling, don't forgetChristmas is a time for forgiveness.'
Phoebe was abruptly stirred from her unpleasant recollection of the pointless argument that had occurred less than twenty-four hours previously. An impeccably groomed flight attendant was standing beside her seat, accompanied by a young girl in a lime-green sweater and matching pants, with a mass of golden curls, a red headband and a big smile. Everything about her was a little too bright for Phoebe at the end of a long-haul flight.
The little helper reached across to Phoebe with a basket of cellophane-wrapped candy. 'If you chew something it will stop your ears getting blocked when we land. Would you like one?'
Phoebe wasn't sure what she wanted, but politely smiled and accepted a sweet. She would never hurt a child's feelings. She had no idea what Phoebe had been put through, and she envied her innocence just a little. The young girl had no idea that boys grew into cads.
'Thank you,' she said, and as the pair moved on to the next passenger Phoebe unwrapped the candy and slipped it into her mouth.
She wasn't sure of anything. She should be a happily married woman back from an eight-week honeymoon in Europe, but instead she was a single woman about to arrive in the land Down Under. And this trip was probably the first of many she would make on her own.
Midway over the Pacific Ocean she had looked out of her tiny window into complete darkness. It had represented her life the huge unknown.
The very thought of ever trusting a man again was ludicrous. She would more than likely see out her days as a spinster, she'd told herself as she had flicked through the choices of inflight entertainment when the rest of the passengers had been sound asleep. Her head had been much too busy thinking about things that she knew she couldn't change, and her thoughts had been as unrelenting as they'd been painful.
All men were the samewell, except for her father, she had reminded herself, as she'd realised there was nothing she'd wanted to watch on her personal screen and pulled down her satin night mask to try and shut out the world. He was one of the last decent men and then they broke the mould.
Susy, her best friend since junior college, who had left Washington two years previously to work as a barrister for the Crown Prosecution Service in London, agreed with her. She had sworn off relationships after her last disastrous rendezvous three months prior.
Men were not worth the effort or the heartbreak, the two friends had decided over a late-night international call before Phoebe's flight. They'd both eaten copious amounts of ice cream in different time zones as they'd commiserated. Susy had been devouring her feel-good salted caramel treat after returning home from a long day in court, while Phoebe had been scraping the melted remnants of her cookies and cream ice cream at just past midnight, Washington time.
'They're just not worth it,' Susy had said into the phone as she'd dropped her empty bowl and spoon on the coffee table, kicked off her shoes and reached for a throw.
'Absolutely not worth even a second of our time,' Phoebe had agreed. 'They are full of baloneyand I'm not talking about the good Italian mortadella. I'm talking the cheap and nasty supermarket kind of baloney.'
'My sentiments exactly.'
'Men and women shouldn't even be on the same planet.'
'Not even the same universe,' Susy had replied, reaching for the bowl of luxury candies her mother had sent over for her recent birthday. She'd still been suffering from post-break-up sugar cravings. 'I think the entire male race should be banished. Except for your dad, though, PhoebsJohn's a real sweetie, so he can stay. Mine hasn't called since my birthday, so he can take a jet to another planet for a while with the rest of them.'
Not long after their decision to relocate the earth's male population Phoebe had felt her eyes getting heavy and had said goodnight to her friend. She was glad she had such a wonderful friend, but very sad that they had both been hurt by callous men. She had no clue why they had both been dealt bad men cards, but she was resolute that it would never happen again.
Because neither of them would ever date again.
From that day forward it would be all about their careers. The plane dropped altitude to land. The sun was up and Phoebe looked from the window to see varied-sized squares of brown and green crops making a patchwork quilt of the undulating landscape. It was nothing like landing in Washington, where she lived, or New York, where she had undertaken her medical studies. Australia couldn't be further from either, in distance or in landscape, and for that reason she couldn't be more relieved.
She was a little anxious, but she was a big girl, she kept reminding herself. It would be a healing adventure. A time to bury the past and focus on furthering her career in podiat-ric surgery. And time away from her mother. As much as Phoebe loved her, she doubted she would miss her while she was still clearly on Team Giles.
Phoebe did, however, have a strong bond with her father John, and would miss him and their long chats about local and world politics, theology, and to which particular rat species Giles belonged. Susy was righther father was one of the last good men. Over the years he had taught Phoebe to seek out answers, to find her path and not to be afraid to experience life and the joys the world had to offer. He had told her always to demand in return the same good manners and consideration that she gave to others, and most importantly to smile .even if her heart was breaking. There were always others far worse off.
And, much to the chagrin of his wife, John had agreed that time away from Washington and the wedding debacle was the best idea for Phoebe.
'We are now commencing our descent into Adelaide. Please ensure your tray table is secured and your seat is in the upright position. We will be landing in fifteen minutes and you will be disembarking at gate twenty-three. The current time in Adelaide is eleven-thirty. Your luggage will be available for collection on Carousel Five. Adelaide is experiencing a heatwave and expecting an extremely hot forty-three degrees for the fifth day in a row. For our overseas passengers, that's a hundred and nine degrees Fahrenheitso shorts and T-shirts would be the order of the week, since the hot spell is not ending for another few days! We hope you enjoyed your flight and will choose to fly with us in the future.'
Phoebe rested back in her seat and her mind drifted back to the snow-covered streets of Washington that she had left behind. And to her cheating fiancé and quite possibly the world's worst bridesmaids She thought of her position at the university hospital and of how, after the flight attendant's announcement, she might quite possibly die of heat stroke on her first day in a new country
Fifteen minutes later, a disembarked and ever so slightly dishevelled Phoebe looked around the sea of strangers waiting with her in line at Customs and questioned herself for heading to a country where she didn't know a soul. But then reason reminded her that the alternative would be crazier.
Staying with the very charismatic but totally insincere Giles. Accepting his pathetic 'last fling' excuse and her mother's unrelenting need to defend his abominable behaviour due to his impressive family tree Giles's wom-anising would have his notable ancestors with their seventeenth-century Pilgrim morals turning in their graves.
She shook her head as she moved one step closer to the booth where a stern-looking official was scrutinising the passports of the very weary long-haul travellers wanting to enter the country.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a very Heartwarming story of how one incident (however important) is given leave to rule a person's life. That is what Heath is for us. The man hates everything to do with Christmas because a tragedy that befell him and his tight knit family leaving him a mess, emotionally. Then we have Phoebe who believes who has her own tragedy and humiliation of being cheated and having to jilt a man she could not trust. Together, Heath and Phoebe are a team no one can dispute the effectiveness of but more than that, this is one very young kid both would give their life for. Heath's son Oscar. The budding relationship between Phoebe and Oscar warms the heart really where a child finally is able to be in the glorious light of a mother's love. And it's good for Phoebe too as she not only looks forward to embrace the young guy but to cherish him as well. She wants him to be the best man out there when he grows up. A man she could be proud calling her son. Back to Heath, though he falls in love he fails to realise that even when he is no stranger to the emotion because he loved his first wife as well. She was after all a wonderful woman too. But a ghost can't keep one company and share the happiness and joy. Coming to terms to the fact that Heath was asking everyone to be unhappy and sad for their entire lives was a bit of shocker for him as it was done unconsciously. But the shocker was the light he needed to get out of the dark he had thrust himself into. The best thing about the story, though, is Phoebe who knows that she loves this man but is still ready to stand for herself and not goes into the idea of love blindly. I like her a lot.