Stepping into West Manhattan Saints, Dr. Tessa Camara is stunned to discover the hospital's new orthopedic surgeon is Dr. Clay Matthewsher ex! Four years apart has done nothing to extinguish the fire between them, but she has never forgiven Clay for his betrayal
Clay still doesn't know why Tessa ended their relationship. And with his adorable little daughter, Molly, to consider, he doesn't have time for Tessa's independence issues. But resisting the passionate Brazilian woman who once stole his heart is easier said than done!
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Theresia Camara sat cross-legged on her bedroom floor surrounded by clothes. Someone else's clothes. Two huge garbage bags full, to be exact. She glanced down at the brand-new sundress she'd worked ten hours to buy and felt sick. What had seemed like an extravagant purchase two days agoone that had made her feel grown-up and independentlooked cheap when compared with the designer labels on what she'd just been given.
And how could she not wear them? Worse, how could she not be utterly grateful that her best friend had thought of her when sorting through her closet? There were more clothes in those two sacks than she'd ever owned.
What it made her feel, though, was poor.
She swallowed. It was okay. She'd make good use of them, including the plum-colored prom dress tucked inside a boutique garment bag that now hung on the back of her closet door. No one would remember that Abby had worn it last year, right?
Tessa's parentswho'd worked hard ever since moving from Brazil to the United Stateswere just getting their painting and remodeling business off the ground. In fact, they'd recently secured a huge contract with a Manhattan firm, redoing a group of office buildings, a project that would keep them busy for the next few years, if the owner was happy with the first batch. But there were materials and supplies to buy in preparation for the work. They certainly didn't have the money to buy her a fancy party dress she would wear only once. Or clothes in preparation for her senior year in high school, which started in two short weeks.
She straightened her back and picked up a pair of dark-wash skinny jeans that were almost new. Luckily she and her friend were the same size. This was a godsend really, and she would see it for what it was. It would take a load off her parentswhich was also the reason she'd sought a job stocking the shelves at a local supermarket to help ease their burden. There would be enough expenses as it was, with graduation and applying for scholarships for college. And then medical school. She crossed her fingers and kissed them in the hope that this particular dream came true.
And someday She brought the jeans to her chest and squeezed them tight, her heart filling with hope. Someday she would be the one helping others. She was going to work harder than she ever thought possible to make sure her grades stayed as high as they were now. Then she would see that her parents were taken care ofeven if their new contract went bust. It was what they'd done for her by moving to a new country. And she did have everything she needed, even if those things didn't come from exclusive stores.
Tessa didn't need labels. Or a ton of money. She just needed to succeed, no matter what sacrifices she had to make. As of now, she was making a pact with herself. She was going to get through school on her own. Without any help.
"Domingo, Segvnda-feira, Terga-feira, Quarta-feira " Reciting the days of the week in Portuguese had always helped center her before. But as Tessa continued to enunciate each syllable of each word, the bubble of horror that was trapped in her throat refused to burst. Instead, it grew larger with every breath.
She stared at the huge cardboard placard propped on an easel in the lobby of West Manhattan Saints, the one welcoming the hospital's newest orthopedic surgeon.
People swerved to avoid her as they made their way into the medical facility, and one man bumped her shoulder with a muttered apology about being late as he passed her. Tessa was running late, too, but at the moment she was powerless to do anything except stand there.
Clayton Matthews, a blast from the pasther pastsported the same lazy half smile she knew so well. The one that tipped up one corner of his mouth and made everything inside her liquefy. And he seemed to be aiming that smile squarely at her, and in turn at everyone who might stop to gaze upon him.
Ha! Gaze upon him. That made him sound like a god or something.
He had been godlike to her at one time. Before she'd realized exactly who had provided her "scholarship" to medical school. The one that had paid for almost her entire education.
Not him. But his parents. She had no idea why they had, other than the fact that her parents and Clay's had become fast friends as her mom and dad worked on a huge block of Clay's dad's buildings. Her dad was still in partnership with them, as a matter of fact.
That partnership was how she'd met Clay in the first place. And the placard brought that last terrible scene on graduation night rushing back.
She swallowed. God. She did not want to face him. Especially now. Not with the second anniversary of her mother's death weighing on her mind.
So she wouldn't. This final part of her residency was in cutaneous oncologyanother reminder of her mom's courageous battlewhile Clay was an orthopedic surgeon. They would be on different floors, even. How likely was it that they would really run into each other in the huge hospital?
Taking a deep breath, she let herself relax slightly.
"Wow, Tessa, you look like you've just seen a ghost." Holly Buchanan, one of the housemates at the Brooklyn brownstone where she lived, stopped beside her. Long brown locks shifted to the left as the other woman tilted her head and looked at the poster. "Ooh, although he's not a bad-looking ghost. Is that the newest member of our happy family?"
Tessa's mouth twisted in a wry grimace. Happy? With the grueling hours they were putting in on the final year of their residency, no one had much time to notice the general atmosphere around the teaching hospital. Harried and exhausted described most of the people Tessa knew. That included her female housemates, Holly and Caren, and her one male housemate, Sam, who lived in the other three units at the brownstone. The friends saw each other more at the hospital than they did at the house.
"I guess he is." She did her best to stifle the bitter edge to her voice, but something must have come across.
Do you know him? Holly s shoulder nudged hers.
"No." Because it was true. The man she had thought she'd known had been nothing like the man he'd turned out to be. "No, I don't know him. At all."
It had been how long? A little over four years. Besides, he was married now, at least that's what she'd heard.
A warm scent tickled her nose, just as a warning tingle lifted the fine hairs on her neck.
"I think 'at all' might be stretching the truth, don't you think, Tess?" That voice. Mellow. Matching the half smile on the poster to a T. "Because I definitely know you."
She wrenched her body around to face the newest threat, just as he held out his hand to Holly. "Clayton Matthews, Orthopedics, nice to meet you."
Holly's eyes widened as they flicked to meet hers, and then she accepted Clay's proffered hand and murmured her own name and specialty. Tessa sent out a desperate plea to her housemate that was summarily ignored.
"Well, I need to get back to work," her friend said, "before Langley takes me down. Again."
The head of surgical residents, Gareth Langley didn't suffer fools lightly, and somehow he and Holly had gotten off to a rocky start. Tessa steered clear of the man whenever possible.
Her housemate then slipped from between them and hurried down the hallway, blinking out of sight as she rounded the corner to the elevators. That left her alone with Clay. And his poster.
"Tessa, good to see you again. How are you?"
Really? That was the best he could do, after everything that had gone on between them? "Fine. You?"
"Surprised." A flash of teeth accompanied that word. "I had no idea you were doing your residency at West Manhattan Saints."
Didn't he? Since West Manhattan was one of the biggest teaching hospitals in the city, how could he not realize this was where she'd wind up?
Unless he really had known and had come here to torment her.
Delusional, Tess. That's what you are. He did not follow you to this hospital.
She decided to ignore his comment, nodding at the placard instead. "Nice likeness."
The impulse to start counting days again winked through her head this time in English. She fought the urge. And the picture was nice. It showed off his thick black hair, strong chin, those deep blue eyes that could slide over you and make you think you were the only person in the world.
Even when you weren't.
At least it was only a head shot, because from the chest down he was no less mouthwatering than he'd been four years agosomething she was doing her damnedest not to dwell on.
He glanced at the picture. "You do what you have to. You should know that better than anyone."
Yes, she did. Like continue working your heart out when you discovered your so-called free ride hadn't actually been free at all. And that the man standing in front of her had known where things stood the whole time they'd shared classes when they'd become an item. When he'd laid her down on the bed in his dorm room and become her very first lover.
Then had come the gifts. Small at first. Then more expensive, despite her protests.
It had all blown apart at her graduation ceremony when he'd handed her a flat jeweler's box with a kiss and murmured congratulations. A half hour later she'd learned over a loudspeaker that the Wilma Grandon Memorial Scholarship had actually been named after Clay's maternal grandmother and that Tessa had been its one and only recipient.
A thousand eyes had swiveled in her direction.
At that moment, she'd been transported back to her childhood bedroom and those sacks of used clothes. Only this was much, much worse. Once again, she was the poor immigrant girl from Brazil who had nothing. Waves of humiliation washed up her face and flooded her body. How could he do that to her?
The embarrassment ignited, turning into something else that scorched across her soul. Only this time the passion she'd inherited from her homeland turned everything inside her to a barren wasteland.
Tessa sent his parents a warm thank-you letter, expressing her gratitude. She sent Clay a completely different kind of letterreturning his graduation present and telling him it was over. That she needed to concentrate on her residency. She repeated that refrain when he showed up at her dorm roomnot letting him see how gutted she was that he'd kept such a huge piece of information from her. He evidently bought the excuse, because it was the last time she'd seen him.
Until now. But at least she could be cordial to him. Maybe he would take the hint, and they would settle on polite indifference in any future encounters.
She held out her hand, as he'd done to Holly moments earlier. "Well, it's good to see you again, Clay. I hope you like it here."
There was a moment's hesitation, and then he took her hand, his palm skimming across hers in a heart-stopping combination of warmth and friction as his fingers closed around hers.
Heat poured into her belly and rushed up her face.
Too late she realized her mistake. Because this was no squeeze-and-release grip. This was intimatea connection that went far beyond the physical realmand her body reacted to the promise it brought along with it.
A shiver ran over her as he drew her a step closer. "I think I already do."
She blinked for a second before realizing his words were in response to hers that she hoped he'd like it here.
How bad would it be if she turned tail and ran right back out of the hospital, abandoning everything she'd worked so hard for?
Very bad. She was here for a specific reason. To treat those with skin diseases that were sometimes benignand sometimes deadly.
She wasn't going to run. Not from anyone.
Time to nip whatever this was in the bud. She tossed her head as the perfect solution came to mind.
"I heard you got married. How's your wife?" She allowed a little acid to color her voice as she gave her hand a slight tug, hoping he'd take the hint.
He did. But not before his thumb skimmed over the back of her wrist in a way she recognized. Her temper died as her heart cracked in two. How could he do this?
"She's not my wife anymore." His throat moved as if he suddenly needed to swallow. When he spoke again, there was a rough edge to his voice. "We're divorced."
Divorced. Oh, God. How was she going to survive if she ran into him every day?
"I'm sorry to hear that. But I'm running late."
Maybe he heard the frantic words that were echoing in her brain, because he took a step back, his expression cooling. "I'll let you go, then. I'm sure we'll see each other around the hospital."
Whether it was a threat or a promise, she had no idea, but she saw her opportunity and grasped it with both hands, throwing him a quick, empty smile and walking away from him as fast as her legs could carry her.
And yet he watched her go. She could feel his gaze on her back, and from the heating of her hindquarters she wondered if those blue eyes had skimmed over that part of her, as well.
Divorced. Oh, how much easier it would have been if he was happily married with a van full of squawking progeny.
What had happened between him and his wife? He hadn't sounded all that happy that his marriage was over.
It's none of your business, Tessa. She quickened her steps, switching into what she called waddle modewhen her pace became too fast for her legs to handle and the wiggle of her hips shifted into overdrive.
But, waddle or not, she had to get away from him. And stay away. At least until the end of her current residency cycle. Maybe she should rethink her plans of applying for that Mohs micrographic surgery fellowship here at West Manhattan. She could always move to another teaching facility.
But she loved it here. Loved the hospital. Loved living in the brownstone with Sam, Caren and Holly. Was she really going to let Clay drive her out?
She turned the corner, but she didn't slow down until she was on the elevator and heading toward the third floor. Then she sagged against the wall.
Clayton Matthews. Here in her hospital.
Her lips tightened. No. She was here to stay. She'd been toying with getting her own place and possibly even starting a family once her residency was donea huge decision, but one she'd been thinking about for a while. She wasn't going to drastically alter her course, no matter how much he made her inside s melt. He'd lost none of his sizzle factor, she'd give him that.
So she was going to continue doing the things she loved as if she'd never seen himalthough she had no idea how that was possible. She'd just have to come up with some kind of strategy for future sightings.
The doors to the elevator swished back open, and she stepped out onto the busy floor of the world she knew and loved.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tessa has more pride than most, and more than is good for her. She is determined to survive and flourish without any help from anyone, and her prideful nature is starting to hurt her possible future happiness. Clay made a mistake when brokenhearted after Tessa left her over four years ago. Determined not to repeat the past, he wants to keep his distance from Tessa. But the martial arts Capoeira director and hospital administrator has other thoughts, and soon Clay and Tessa are dancing around each other, while preparing for the Capoeira exhibition. Clay is dedicated doctor, and caring father. He is generous, kind and giving, a combination Tessa has a problem with. I wanted to shake Tessa several times, because of her stubborn, prideful nature. Who survives medical school without scholarships, or gets internships without recommendations? Tessa, so smart and kind otherwise, seemed to be holding on a foolish pride. She had lots of inner inflection to be done, to realize some basic matters. It takes a drastic event to open her eyes, and her heart. The story is an interesting mix of hospital world and work, the Capoeira culture, and passionate romance rekindled between Clay and Tessa ~ Four Spoons