When he lost the girl he loved, Dr. Jackson DeMatteo shut down his heart and became the kind of perfectionist surgeon that alienated him from the residents. Now Jackson has a very coveted promotion dangling before him...but it comes with a price. Working with adorably geeky first-year resident Darla Morales is definitely going to cost him. Big time.
She's just what the doctor ordered...
Completing her trauma residency demands confidence and Darla, who's already pretty high on the nerd scale, is definitely not confident. Worse still, she's forced to work with Doctor Dreamy, who makes her even more nervous and defensive. Darla needs to focus on the work and not his bedroom eyes if she ever hopes to become a trauma surgeon.
Each book in the Gambling Hearts series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 One Night in Vegas
Book #2 How to Save a Surgeon
About the Author
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How to Save a Surgeon
A Gambling Hearts Story
By C.M. Stone, Heather Howland, Vanessa Mitchell
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 C.M. Stone
All rights reserved.
Darla wasn't late, though part of her wished she had been. Nerves over working with a new surgeon in the UMC Trauma Center had sent her rushing through her morning, and she'd arrived to wait for him two minutes early.
Two minutes to spend doing nothing but standing around stuck in her own head. It was better than ten minutes of waiting, at least, but she still found herself anxiously rocking on her heels.
"Wait," a man's deep voice echoed from down the hall. "Does McGaffey think I lack patience?"
Her head automatically turned toward the indignant tone. The man who'd spoken was looking at the Chief of Trauma Medicine, his face tense and guarded as if expecting an unpleasant answer.
Chief Singh just smiled, then pointed toward Darla. "There's your new intern."
The man standing beside the Chief of Trauma Medicine jerked his head in her direction. Dr. Jackson DeMatteo. Her new mentor. The man who would determine her fate in trauma medicine.
Lots of people had warned her that he was a nightmare. Demanding. Relentlessly focused on the job. That he had the highest, most stringent standards of any doctor any of them had ever had to work with. Other residents often called him Dr. Ice behind his back. There was plenty of talk about his work ethic, but her peers failed to mention that the man was gorgeous. He stood a little over six feet tall with broad shoulders and smooth, tanned skin. His rich brown hair was clipped short and neat, ideal for a physician. His light green eyes were fringed with thick black lashes — of course they were — making for a stark contrast against his dark, Mediterranean good looks. His full lips pursed in a frown, and she noticed a faint little dimple in his chin.
Great. She was gawking. As that realization struck her, she dropped her eyes and stepped forward to offer him her hand. "Dr. DeMatteo, I-I've heard amazing things about you. I'm Darla Morales, and I'm really excited to be working with you."
"And you actually requested to work with me, too," DeMatteo pointed out as he accepted her hand. The tension in his face eased, his full lips curving into a faint, puzzled smile. "Why is that?"
The friendly question sparked unexpected confidence in her, which she eagerly latched on to. The lust he was inspiring, on the other hand, wasn't as helpful. She took a deep breath, trying to recall the answer she'd rehearsed for his question, and did her best to ignore the scent of DeMatteo's aftershave. It smelled like spice and cedar.
"I'm about to finish up my first year, and then I want to begin a specialty track residency in trauma medicine. McGaffey had been my first choice for a mentor here, but since she's retiring in a few weeks she suggested that I speak to you instead."
DeMatteo rose both of his brows slightly at that, then turned to give a smug look to the chief before turning back to her. "That's fantastic. She was my mentor when I first began my specialty track. I'd be honored to continue her fine tradition."
They stepped away a bit from the chief and another doctor who had been hovering nearby. At the moment, she was still trying to find the right balance of eye contact with DeMatteo, so she didn't give much attention to anyone else. She was vaguely aware that the chief was watching them, though.
"Everyone has to spend at least some of their first year in the trauma center, so I imagine you've gotten a basic grounding in trauma already, but it really is a far more complex specialty than most people from outside the field can appreciate," DeMatteo said.
That earlier confidence bubbled forth. "I know. My mother's worked as a trauma nurse pretty much all my life."
He paused and his smile faded, making her heart sink. "Be careful. Don't say you know something you don't. I'm sure your mother is a very good nurse, but right now you're a first-year surgical intern. You don't actually know what it's like inside the field."
"But I've been living and breathing this since I was seven." The dwindling warmth in his face was sending off little warnings all through her brain, but she forged ahead. "I know I'm just an intern, but I've read so much in preparation. While my roommate was playing Call of Duty this morning, I was reading about sexual dimorphism in trauma."
Instead of being impressed with her, he was looking more exasperated by the moment. "There's no proven sexual dimorphism in trauma."
"No! There is. It's been studied for years and years, even. It affects immune and organ responsiveness. The susceptibility to and morbidity from shock, trauma, and sepsis is worse in men, because female hormones actually have a protective effect. By using estrogen treatment, it could potentially reduce morbidity for men."
He pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes closed. "We don't give estrogen to men after trauma just because there's a theorized sex difference. That's ... that sounds dangerously stupid. Where are you getting this?"
"It was in this paper I was reading this morning." Darla pulled out her phone and began searching for it, almost frantic now. He had just called her stupid. Or, well, he had called what she was saying stupid. The need to prove herself was overriding every bit of sense she had. "Here! See? It was observed in rats and the results were reproduced in humans, going back almost twenty years."
He drew his hand back from his face to take her phone. She watched as his eyes scanned the document she'd loaded. Instead of looking pleased at learning something new, he only sighed.
"Twenty years," he said.
She nodded, feeling a bit like a bobble head doll with the rapidity of the motion. "It goes back to the mid-nineties, at least. I'm surprised you graduated without ever hearing about it, actually."
"You're surprised I graduated medical school without knowing about an experimental hormone treatment that no one is using?" Irritation practically dripped off of his words, and she finally got a sense of just how far she had pushed things. The first rule of holes, she knew, was to stop digging. Figuring out how to do that was the hard part.
"No. No, of course not," she said. "I just would've expected you to know that female patients tolerate blood loss and recover from sepsis better. That's really common knowledge, isn't it?"
He dropped her phone back into her hand, then shook his head slightly before walking away from her. The full enormity of her blunder struck her like a piano dropping off a roof. Her diaphragm started to squeeze painfully with every breath as her heart pounded in her ears. One of the rising stars at the hospital, certainly someone well-connected to just about everyone above her, and she had just argued with him publicly and essentially called him ignorant. What the hell had she been thinking? Why couldn't she have gotten tongue-tied or just been speechless in terror instead of babbling like an absolute ass?
Before she could start crying or do anything worse to add to the horror of the situation, she dashed away. Part of her wanted to just keep running all the way back home.
* * *
Jackson stepped a few feet away as he attempted to gather his thoughts. Showing the chief that he was talented at teaching became a far more difficult task when his newest intern was trying to school him. Snapping at her out of embarrassment would hardly help his efforts to look like good professor material, but the urge was high. Finding a more diplomatic way to explain how medical consensus worked and that a few studies weren't enough to make sweeping declarations seemed best. Or it did until he heard feet running. He turned to watch as she fled.
"Fuck," he swore under his breath.
Another surgeon had lingered to watch the exchange and asked in a falsetto, "Oh, Dr. DeMatteo, how could you possibly not know about sexual dimorphism in trauma?"
"Shut up, Mevlyn." Jackson dragged a hand through his hair, thinking. She seemed to know her material well enough — it was true that he'd never heard anyone suggest using hormone therapy on male trauma patients — but there was more to being a trauma surgeon than collecting theories. Still, if she could keep from running away it might even be fun to debate things with her. Provided she didn't start it up in front of the chief.
"That didn't last very long," Chief Singh pointed out dryly. "I expected you to at least get through a single shift with her."
"I didn't chase her off." He pointed in the direction she'd run. "That was all her."
"Yes, I heard." The chief gave him a little smile. "And I didn't hear you reeling her in and getting her back on track."
"How the hell could I? She barely gave me a chance to get a word in edgewise before she was ranting on about some bullshit estrogen therapy somebody dreamed up in the nineties."
That little smile vanished from the chief's face. "It's not bullshit. I had provided some patient data for one of those studies."
Kill me now, Jackson silently prayed.
"I'll find her and get her back in the trauma center," he said, desperate to change the subject. "She's pretty high-strung, though. I don't know how long she'll last."
"She'd better last through her residency."
Jackson felt as if ice water had just trickled down his spine. He stared at the chief for a moment, trying to determine if the older man was joking or not, but he looked perfectly serious. "You want me to keep her in here for years?"
The chief spread his hands, shrugging. "At least until she's chosen her specialty. Morales is nearly done with her first year now, after all, so you don't have that long to hold her hand until she's on a specialty track. How well she does from that point will be up to her, but I expect her to stick with trauma."
The horror of it all crept up on him. "She couldn't last five minutes. Literally, just now? That was less than five minutes."
"I'm aware of how long it was, DeMatteo. Are you aware of how you could have handled it better?"
"I don't know. Made her shut up sooner?" As was too often the case, his sarcastic sense of humor went unappreciated.
The chief gave him a sour look, then shook his head. "You're the experienced attending surgeon here. You could have kept your ego in check, instead of getting defensive when she pointed out you were wrong."
Jackson bit his tongue to keep from arguing. He hadn't been wrong. Whatever a handful of studies said, there was no consensus on the topic. Until there was consensus, he had no reason to revise the standard medical assumptions he'd been taught.
"Make a trauma surgeon out of her, DeMatteo," Singh continued. "Show me you have what it takes to be responsible for molding future doctors."
That caught his attention. He glanced in the direction Morales had run, then turned back to the chief. "That's it? That's what you want from me for McGaffey's position? Make Morales a useful member of the trauma team?"
It was a running joke among the other adjunct faculty in the medical school that it was easier to kill a tenured professor and get their position than wait for one of the positions to open up. For an ambitious young surgeon like him, getting a shot at professorship instead of only being an instructor could be the difference between a career and just having a job. McGaffey's retirement from teaching was the opportunity he'd been waiting for.
"Do you think you can do it?"
Jackson opened his mouth to answer, then paused. The desire to answer in the affirmative was overpowering, but was it true? While McGaffey must have seen something in Morales to actually recommend he mentor her, it was difficult to gauge her strengths yet. They had only spoken for a moment. One hell of a moment.
"Of course he can't," Mevlyn cut in. "He can't even get a normal intern to stick around. How could DeMatteo possibly manage with a walking panic attack like that?"
That made the decision for him. Jackson snapped his mouth shut and shot a glare in Mevlyn's direction. "She's a nervous first-year resident. Cut her some slack."
She had been nervous. He'd recognized that, but he'd let his frustration with her babbling get the better of him. Her big brown eyes had been so wide behind her glasses, and she'd pulled her black curls into an impossibly tight ponytail with them exploding into a puff behind her head, making her heart-shaped face look younger and smaller. Not all of her had looked so delicate, though. Even with the top of her head barely reaching his shoulder, her body was full and rounded with tempting curves.
He pushed those unprofessional thoughts away and refocused on the chief. "I can do it. She's bright and clearly driven. It's just a matter of directing that well."
Singh relaxed and a smile returned to his face once more. "You think you can direct her?"
"I know I can."
Mevlyn crossed his arms. "You're really going to offer him McGaffey's tenure track position for getting one intern to be quasi-functional?"
"It's not my place to offer it. Those decisions are decided by the medical school board," the chief corrected. "I can make recommendations, though, as will McGaffey."
"And what happens when he fails? Who's your backup recommendation?" Mevlyn pressed.
Jackson held his breath, though he knew what the answer would be. Instead of actually saying it out loud, the chief only gave Mevlyn a knowing look. The other man had a few more years of experience than Jackson, and even if he was one of the laziest instructors Jackson had ever heard of, he knew how to play hospital politics.
"Morales is going to be a trauma surgeon," Jackson told the chief firmly. "There's no other way I'll let this end."CHAPTER 2
The supply closet wasn't the most dignified place to hide, but it was the first and most private location Darla had seen. She shifted on the plastic tote she'd chosen as her seat and hugged her knees to her chest, trying to bring her breathing under control. It was out of proportion to what happened, and she knew it, yet logic had little to do with her anxiety. Her brain had settled into a feedback loop of horror as she ran through the conversation over and over again.
What had she been thinking? So he was wrong about something. So he didn't read journals as closely as she did. Telling him that he was wrong in front of everyone was no way to help matters. It certainly hadn't made him listen to her.
"I hate everything and everyone, especially me," she muttered to herself as she hugged her knees.
"That sounds pretty dire for a little argument."
She looked up at the voice and saw Jackson DeMatteo standing in the doorway of the supply closet. With her heart pounding in her ears, she hadn't noticed the door opening. A wave of horror washed over her, leaving her head feeling so light she feared she was going to pass out. That was all she needed, dropping at his feet.
"Dr. DeMatteo," she said in a rush as she scrambled to stand. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't —"
"Wait." He held a hand up to her, his other hand shutting the door behind him. "I don't care about your apology."
Her stomach clenched, and she thought she could taste bile on the back of her tongue. Vomiting at his feet might be worse than fainting. "You don't?"
"No. I don't need you to grovel. I just need you to put effort into this and make it work. Are you going to do that?"
Her heart leaped and she worried she might get a headache from the mood whiplash. "Yes, yes, absolutely," she insisted. "Thank you so much."
His full lips pressed together in frown. God, he was even sexy when he was frowning at her. Not making a complete idiot over herself moment by moment was going to be far harder than any surgery she had ever assisted on.
"Don't thank me. Just do what's required. Why are you interested in trauma medicine?"
"My mom's a trauma nurse."
DeMatteo raised one brow slightly, then gave her a prompting gesture. "And?"
Had that been the wrong answer? Whenever she had mentioned her family history in medicine, everyone else had simply accepted it happily. It seemed like the motivation for a lot of high-achievers, too. Darla struggled to elaborate. "And I want to be like her?"
Her scalp was prickling with sweat under all of the hairspray she'd put on that morning. Why weren't her answers good enough for him? Was he just being sadistic to get back at her for earlier? "I ... admire my mother?"
"I was looking for answers, not more questions. Don't ask me why you're doing it," he said. "Can I give you a word of advice? Our parents make for really shitty motivators in life. Yeah, they love us, but they think they know us better than they really do. You need to do this for you, not your mother."
"I ... I am doing it for me?" Shit. She was making it sound like a question again. Darla shook her head, warding off another correction from him. "I've always wanted to be a doctor and surgeons seemed like gods to me when I was a kid. My dad —"
Excerpted from How to Save a Surgeon by C.M. Stone, Heather Howland, Vanessa Mitchell. Copyright © 2015 C.M. Stone. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Anyone here watch or at least seen the first season of Orange is the New Black? If you have, Darla and Jackson’s relationship reminds me of John Bennet’s and Dayanra Diaz’s: Forbidden, but we root for them to figure out the impossible. Jackson DeMatteo is in a position of power over Darla Morales since he is now her mentor. Darla is ready to learn all she can from Dr. DeMatteo since he is the top trauma surgeon in the hospital. What neither of them are ready for is the real lesson they will both learn. Darla has this spirit about her that is contagious to those around her. She is ready to make a difference, learn from the best (even if he is intimidating and sexy as hell), and continue on with her life plan. Jackson is heartbroken, separates himself from those around him, and can’t resist the spitfire and innocence of Darla. The chemistry and events were well written and had me trying to figure out what would happen next and what would be their ultimate destination.
3 very satisfied Stars This was a quick lovely a la Grey’s Anatomy story. Resident Darla is set on getting into trauma medicine and is paired with hunky Dr. Ice…I mean Jackson DeMatteo, who’s known for being strict and cold, as her advisor/attending physician. They share a strong attraction and in the end can’t really keep their hands off each other. Both characters had some issues to resolve, Jackson had lost a girlfriend in the past who had a mental health issue and he feels responsible for it, shutting out anyone and everyone who could matter to him. Darla has a heart condition and a chip on her shoulder the size of a polar iceberg which leads her to doing things she doesn’t really want to do just to prove that she can… like trauma medicine. I liked this story, if you don’t mind the medical talk, which in truth wasn’t that bad. I did find my feelings towards their relationship contradictory. On one hand I wanted them to be together, all the forbidden love and their being right for each other… on the other, it was kind of selfish on both their parts mainly because of their resident-advisor relationship. Jackson could lose his job (which Darla didn’t seem to care about too much) and then Darla could be transferred to another hospital… which Jackson was kind of secretly and very deeply hidden hoping for so they could be together in the open. Well, I won’t tell you how things work out, because what would be the fun on that? But I will tell you that I enjoyed How to Save a Surgeon very much, and I will be looking up for more stories by this author. *I received a complimentary copy from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review*
My Thoughts: When I first started this book, it was really difficult for me to get into it. Darla is working as a resident under Jackson and things don't necessarily start off the greatest. Over time, the two of them get to know more about each other and somehow find themselves wrapped up in a secret relationship. This relationship could get them both into trouble at the hospital because of the fact that she's his intern--huge conflict of interest. What will they do when the truth comes out? How to Save a Surgeon is a nice story of two people who learned how to overcome their obstacles on their own. It was hard to connect with them at first, but I did find that I enjoyed the second half of the book. Definitely a unique story, with a nice hint of forbidden romance weaved in. I'd say that if you pick this up, make sure you keep reading because you'll enjoy Jackson and Darla's story when you get to the end. My Rating: Pretty Good
Jackson and Darla= slow story ***A gifted copy was provided by the publisher for my honest review*** Dr. Jackson DeMatteo shut down after he lost the woman he loved, he became a hard man. He focused on only being the best surgeon at the hospital and turned off his emotions and his heart. He doesn’t engage his emotions. He has become known as the best at the hospital and all either want to be him or they stay away from him because if you do not live up to his standards then woe to you. 1st-year resident Darla Morales is very sweet and is determined to succeed with her job. Working with Jackson is something she is unsure about = she finds she is attracted to him yet he makes her nervous. Working trauma is a very stressful job and she has to prove she can be in this position. Can she prove she has a right to be here and can Jackson accept her, especially once the intensity of the attraction rages between them or will he freeze her out ? I did like the story but I found the story was hard to read a lot due to a lot of medical lingo and how hard Jackson froze Darla out. It felt like the attraction between Darla and Jackson was hard to get into until the very end. I did like reading this story once I pushed thru ; it got good at the 60 % point but it was hard up to the point. Overall both MC had good points, the story just had some work that needed to be done to make it a better read. My rating: 3.5 stars ***
3.5**** This was a sweet and spicy story of a vulnerable frozen hearted man and a enthusiastic, vibrant young woman. Jackson stopped living and was just going through the motions of life. So when he met Darla, it was nice to see a fresh breath of air hit him. He was so glum, so methodical and workaholic. It was very funny the way she would challenge him with all her research. But I liked the way they were drawn to each other too, the way he would make her feel about herself. She grew as a person throughout this story and it was an incredible journey. I wish we could have had a little more with Eliza and Chris along with a little more Jackson and Darla at the end. They had such a great camaraderie that I wanted to see more of their next chapters. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher.
This story was sort of hard to get into a first but once I got past the first little bit that was some medical stuff, I got into the story more. Jackson, who is coming off of loosing his love in a tragic way, has been assigned to be Darla's mentor for her first year in trauma residency. When Darla totally butchers their first meeting in front of several of the staff at the hospital, she wonders if there is every going to be any way to rectify her relationship with Jackson. Darla has a huge crush on Jackson from the very beginning and has a hard time concentrating on what she is supposed to be doing in the first place. Jackson thinks that she is just a nerdy student that has to learn how to deal with her anxiety about being in real life situations. When Darla finally gets into a routing with Jackson, she is able to focus a little more (if he doesn't give her a look with those dreamy eyes of his) and concentrate on what she is supposed to be doing as an intern. There are definitely sparks that fly between Jackson and Darla but they try and resist them for awhile. There are rules against mentors and interns dating that they don't want to break for a risk of loosing everything. After a while Jackson gives into his longing for Darla and things begin to progress in their relationship. Jackson soon realizes that there is more to Darla than he at first thought. They try at first to hide their relationship but soon realize that they are not going to be able to. Jackson ends up risking it all for his love for Darla. This was a sweet story where the male is an Alpha and goes after what he wants no matter what. I am glad that it ended in a HEA for these two, especially Jackson coming off of a hard loss. I received and ARC for my honest opinion but that does not influence my review.
I really liked this story. It's a bit heavier read than most of the Lovestruck books but I really enjoyed it. Some of the medical jargon in the beginning made it hard to get into at first but once you got past that and the focus was more on the developing relationship between Jackson and Darla and the events of their past that have driven them to this point in their lives the story flowed much better. It's one I would recommend.
Review: I love a good medical romance a la Gray's Anatomy and that is exactly what I got with How to Save a Surgeon. Dr. Jackson DeMatteo was assigned to mentor first-year resident Darla Morales and at first it is far from a match made in Heaven. They both have some baggage. His (plus being a surgeon) makes him somewhat overbearing and obnoxious. Hers makes her somewhat insecure and defensive. However time and Cupid do their thing and before long their chemistry (and I don't mean inorganic) takes over and they begin to really enjoy their time together. They take chances which is difficult for them both and decide to trust one another and amazing things happen. Of course, there is also the sex, pretty amazing itself. *grin* Now I'm not saying everything was smooth as silk because it wasn't. What fun would that be anyway, right? But I liked the characters. Ms. Stone did a really good job crafting them and making them believable for those roles. There was a lot of medical jargon needed to make the setting seem right and she nailed it. As the daughter of a nurse and fireman, and a medical assistant myself, I am always sensitive to those things. I suppose some people might wish there was a glossary of terms added to the book but otherwise I wouldn't change a thing. I love series so I was glad to see that How to Save a Surgeon is part of one. It is A Gambling Hearts Story, actually the second in the series with the first being One Night in Vegas which I most certainly plan to read. While I am just meeting Ms. Stone, I will be closely watching for more from her in the future. If I love her other stories like I truly enjoyed this one, I think I have a new favorite author. For the 18 plus crowd, I'm sure any medical romance lovers for sure, plus most contemporary romance as well will enjoy reading How to Save a Surgeon. So get your very own copy and figure out just how to save a surgeon! RATING: 4.5 Stars HEAT: 3/5 Blush Worthy Note: I received this ARC from Entangled Publishing in exchange for an honest review.