Heartbreakingly handsome senior midwife Lucas Elliot manages to make any woman go weak at the knees! Only English obstetrician Darcie Green seems immune to his charmshis love-'em-and-leave-'em attitude infuriates her
But for Lucas, buttoned-up Darcie is the ultimate challengehe's determined to bring out her wild side before she returns to England! Yet Lucas's plan backfires when he realizes he's dangerously close to falling for her And, more worryingly, Darcie's even closer to discovering the secret behind the playboy!
About the Author
After the fourth manuscript, she realised there was no going back...she was officially a writer. When not in the middle of her latest book, Tina enjoys crafting stained glass panels, riding horses and hiking with her family. Fluent in Portuguese, she divides her time between Brazil and the United States and loves to use exotic locales as the backdrop for many of her stories.
Read an Excerpt
"Cora? What's wrong, sweetheart?"
Lucas leaned a shoulder against the wall outside the birthing suite as his niece's voice came over the phone, dread making his blood pressure rise in steady increments. Every time he thought his brother was through the worst of his grief, he'd go on yet another binge and undo all the work he'd accomplished during therapy.
He took a quick glance down the hall. The coast was clear.
Lucas had worked hard over the last week to make sure his personal life didn't interfere with his job. As angry as he'd been at Darcie for giving him a public flogging over being late for work a couple of months ago, she'd been right. It was why he'd hired a childminder to help with Cora's care. Burning the candle at both ends was not only unwise, it could also be dangerous for his patients.
Had his parents still been alive, they would have been happy to help. But it had been almost ten years since the car accident that had taken their lives.
His niece's voice came through. "Nothing's wrong. I just called to tell you what Pete the Geek did today."
Cora's Belgian sheepdog. Muscles he hadn't been aware he'd contracted released all at once. "Can you tell me later, gorgeous? I'm working right now."
"Oh, okay. Sorry, Uncle Luke. Are you coming for dinner tonight?"
"I wouldn't miss it, sweetheart." He smiled, unable to resist the pleading note in her voice. "What are we having?"
Cora's birth was what had propelled him to change his career path from plastic surgery to midwifery. The lure of a glamorous life filled with beautiful women had faded away in a moment when Felix's wife had gone into labor unexpectedly. Lucas had delivered his own niece in the living room of his brother's home. As he'd stared down at the tiny creature nestled in his hands, Cora had blinked against the light and given a sharp wail of protest that had melted his heart. Seven years later, she still had the power to turn him into a soppy puddle of goo, especially since he and Felix were now the only family she had left.
He needed to get off the phone, but the ward was quietnone of his patients were laboring at the moment. He cradled the device closer to his ear. "Prawns, eh? What's the occasion?"
She giggled. "Just because."
"You're going to spoil me." His chest tightened at how happy she sounded. He'd take this over those other phone calls any day.
"Oh," his niece said, "make sure you bring some briquettes for the barbie. Daddy forgot them at the store."
Felix had forgotten quite a few things lately. But at least he seemed to be pulling out of his current well of depression.
Footsteps sounded somewhere behind him, so he moved to end the conversation.
"Okay, Cora, I will. Looking forward to tonight."
"Me too. Love you bunches."
"Love you even more, sweetheart. Bye." He ended the call, only to have the very person he'd been hoping not to encounter stalk past him, throwing an icy glare his way.
Lucas sighed. The woman did seem to pop up at just the wrong time. He slid the phone into his pocket and decided to go after her. He had no idea why, but he liked trying to get a rise out of her. Within five steps he'd caught up with her. Matching her pace, he glanced to the side.
Not good. The obstetrician's lips were pressed together into a thin line, her expression stony.
He pushed forward anyway, throwing her what he hoped was a charming smile. "Were you looking for me?"
Her expression didn't budge. "I was, but I can see you're busy."
"Just taking a short breather between patients. What was it you wanted?"
She glanced at him, her eyes meeting his for a mere second. "Is Isla scheduled to see you this week?"
Isla Delamere was one of his colleagues as well as a friend.
"Yes, did you want to be there for her appointment?"
Her chin edged up in a way he was coming to recognize. "I'd planned to be. She's my patient as well."
Okay, he'd gotten a rise out of her, but not quite the kind he'd been hoping for.
He moved ahead of her and planted himself in her path before she could reach the door to the staff lounge. Why he was bothering he had no idea, but something in him wanted to knock down a block or two of that icy wall she surrounded herself with. "Listen, Dr. GreenDarcieI know we got off on the wrong foot somehow, but can we hit the reset button? We have three weeks of our rotation left. I'd like to make them pleasant ones, if at all possible. What do you say?"
The tight lines in her face held firm for another moment, and he wondered if she was going to strike him dead for daring to use her first name. Then her eyes closed, and she took a deep breath. "I think I might be able to manage that." The corners of her mouth edged up, creating cute little crinkles at the outer edges of her eyes. "If we both try very hard."
Something in Lucas's chest shifted, and a tightening sensation speared through his gut. Had he ever seen the woman smile? Not that he could remember, and certainly never at him. The transformation in her face was
He swallowed. That was something he was better off not thinking about.
Three weeks. He just had to get through the rest of this rotation. From what he understood, Dr. Green had only been seconded to MMU for a year, then she'd head back to England. He did some quick calculations. She had, what three months left? Once their rotation was over she'd be down to two, which meant it was doubtful they'd be paired together again. He gave an internal fist pump, trying to put his whole heart into it. It came off as less than enthusiastic.
Because you still have these three weeks to get through.
He gave her another smile. "I think I can manage it as well."
"Well, good. Now that that's settled, when is Isla's appointment?"
He checked his schedule. "Next Wednesday at two."
Darcie pulled her phone out and scrolled through a couple of screens before punching some buttons. "I don't have anyone scheduled at that time, so I'll be there." She gave him another smilea bit wider this timeand the wobble in his chest returned. And this time he noticed the crinkles framed eyes that were green. A rich velvety color. Sparkling with life.
Her lips were softer too than they had been earlier. Pink, delicate, and with just a hint of shine.
The tightening sensation spread lower, edging beneath his waistband.
What the hell? Time to get out of here.
"Great. See you later." He turned and started back the way he had come, only to have her voice interrupt him.
"Don't forget to call for a consult if anything unusual comes up."
He stiffened at the prim tone. "Yes, I know the protocol, thank you."
When she didn't respond, he turned around and caught something hurt? in the depths of those green eyes, and maybe even a hint of uncertainty. In a flash, though, it winked out, taking with it any trace of her earlier smile and, very possibly, their newborn peace accord.
While that bothered him on a professional level, it was what he'd seen in her expression in that unguarded moment that made him want to cross over to her and try to understand what was going on in her head. He didn't. Instead, he chose to reiterate his comment in a less defensive way. "I'll ring if I need you."
Then he walked away. Without looking back. Praying the next weeks sped by without him having to make that call.
That man should wear a lab coat. A long one.
Darcie tried not to stare at the taut backside encased in dark jeans as he made his way back down the hall, but it was hard. No matter how much she tried to look anywhere but there, her peripheral vision was still very much engaged, keeping track of him until he finally turned down a neighboring corridor.
The thread of hurt from his curt response still lingered, just waiting for her to tug on it and draw it tighter. Why had he acted so put out to have her assistance on a case?
Was it the professional rivalry that sometimes went on between midwives and obstetricians?
She sagged against the wall, pressing her fingers against her temples and rubbing in slow, careful circles to ward off the migraine that was beginning to chomp at the wall of her composure.
What was it about Lucas that put her on edge?
The fact that he was a man in a field dominated by women?
Or was it the fact that all the expectant mums who came through the doors clamored to be put on his patient list? Despite the run-ins they'd had over the past nine months, Senior Midwife Lucas seemed quite capable of doing his job with an ease and efficiency that only enhanced his good looks.
And they were good.
She tried to dredge up an unflattering image, like the time he'd come in late for work, dragging his fingers through his wavy hair, his rumpled clothes the same ones he'd had on when he'd left the previous afternoon. Nope. He'd been just as attractive then as the first time she'd laid eyes on him.
Ugh. She disliked him for that most of all.
Or maybe it was all those secretive phone calls she'd caught him making when he'd thought he'd been alone. Oh, those were definitely over the top. So many of them, right in the middle of his shift.
And he wondered why she was outraged when he came in late or took little side breaks to indulge in whispered conversations.
Could she be jealous?
She straightened in a flash. No! Just because Robert had decided she wasn't enough "fun", it didn't mean she should go ballistic over any man who wanted to indulge in a bit of pillow talk on the phone.
Maybe it wouldn't bother her so much if he didn't use the same flirty tones when in conversation with the MMU staff and his patients. The tone he turned on this "Cora" persona kind of I'm-not-willing-to-commit-but-I-still-want-you-at-my-beck-and-call attitude that grated on Darcie's nerves. Especially after the way her ex had led her down the rosy path, only to dump her for her maid of honorwho, actually, was a lot of fun to be with.
She sighed and went into the lounge to get a strong cuppa that she hoped would relieve the steady ache in her head and keep it from blooming into something worse.
As soon as she moved into the space, she knew it was a mistake. Lucas, it seemed, was the main topic of conversation among the cluster of four nurses inside.
"I swear one of his patients this morning had on false eyelashes. While in labor!" Mari-son Daniels blinked rapidly, as if trying to imitate what the woman had done. They all laughed.
If Darcie had hoped to slide by them, grab her tea and tiptoe back out of the room unseen, that hope was dashed when the nurse next to Marison caught Darcie's eye and gave the jokester a quick poke in the ribs with her elbow. The laughter ceased instantly.
Oh, Lord. Her face burned hotter than the kettle she'd just switched on.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt."
"You didn't interrupt," Marison assured her. "I was just headed back to the ward."
The others all echoed the same thing.
With a scurry of feet and tossing of rubbish, the four headed out.
Just what she needed. To be reminded that she was still very much an outsider when it came to certain thingslike being allowed to let her hair down with the rest of them.
No, the pattern had been set from the moment she'd got off the plane. Oh, she'd made friends and people were nice enough, but to let her in on their little jokes? That didn't happen very often, except with Isla.
Worse, she'd even overheard Lucas making fun of her English accent while on one of his phone calls to Cora. It hadn't been in a mean way, he'd just repeated some of her colloquialisms with a chuckle, but it made her feel self-conscious any time she opened her mouth around him. So she made sure she spoke to him as little as possible. And now that they were sharing a rota, she was still struggling to maintain that silence.
Not that it was going to be possible forever.
She could still picture the confident way he strode through the hallways of the ward, his quick smile making itself known whenever he met a patient. She wrinkled her nose. More than one expectant mum would have probably given her left ovary to bat long sexy lashes and claim the child she was carrying was Lucas Elliot's.
Including his current paramour, Cora?
Probably, but not her. She was done with men like him.
Her fiancé had been handsome and attentive. Until he hadn't been. Until he'd grown more and more distracted as their engagement had progressed.
Now she knew why.
And Lucas had Cora. She was not about to smile and flirt with a man who was taken. She wasn't Tabitha.
She packed leaves into the tea ball and dropped it into a chunky muga gift from her dad to remind her that her favorite footballers resided in England and to not let herself get swept away by a handsome face, especially one who lived halfway round the world.
Lucas's quirked brow swam before her eyes, and she let out an audible groan, even as she poured boiling water into her cup. No matter how good looking he was or how elated she'd been to see the momentary confusion cross his expression when she'd smiled at him, she did not need to become like False-Eyelash Ladythe one Marison had carried on about.
There'd be a real corker of a reaction if someone caught her mooning after him. Or staring after him, like she'd done earlier.
She bounced her tea ball in the water and watched as the brew grew darker and darker, just like her thoughts. What she needed was to stay clearheaded. Like he'd said, they had three more weeks together.
He wanted them to be pleasant ones. She finished adding milk and sugar to her cup and then discarded the used tea leaves, rinsing the ball and leaving it on a towel for the next person who needed it.
"Pleasant" she could do, but that had to be the extent of it. Maybe she should be grateful for all those calls to Cora maybe she should even hope the relationship stayed the course. At least for the next few weeks.
Which meant she would not go out of her way to put him at ease or cut him any slack if he came in late again. Neither would she give the man any reason to look at her with anything other than the casual curiosity his eyes normally held.
And once those three weeks were up?
Life would go back to the way it had been before they'd found themselves joined at the hip.
Joined at the hip. She gave a quick grin. That was one place she and Lucas would never be joined, even if the idea did create a layer of warmth in her belly. But it was not going to happen. Not in this lifetime.
With that in mind, she took a few more sips of the sweet milky brew, then, feeling fortified and ready to face whatever was out there, she headed off to see her next patient in what was proving to be a very interesting morning.