One Night Before Christmas

One Night Before Christmas

by Susan Carlisle

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Overview

One Night Before Christmas by Susan Carlisle

Unwrapping Dr Reynolds…

Sports physician Dr Melanie Hyde is used to being treated as one of the guys — but just sometimes, it would be nice to be treated like a woman…

So when hot-shot orthopaedic doctor Dalton Reynolds flies in to Niagara Falls, his brooding good looks ignite feelings Mel never even knew existed!

Dalton's flight leaves in a few days yet after their short, but steamy, time together, Mel knows that she's already fallen for him!  Can she melt Dalton's heart and convince him to stay…just in time for Christmas?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460389720
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 11/01/2015
Sold by: HARLEQUIN
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 281 KB

About the Author

Susan's love affair with books began when she made a bad grade in math in the sixth grade. Not allowed to watch TV until she brought the grade up, Susan filled her extra time with books. She turned her love of reading into a love of writing romance. If the hero is a smart, sexy and sinfully rich alpha male, he can be found in her books along with a strong heroine that captures the hero's heart.

When Susan isn't writing she leads workshops on time management, promoting your books, learning to live with rejection, collaging your story and presenting a memorable workshop. For seventeen years, she has been a high school substitute teacher and that...is another bio. Susan lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband of twenty-nine years and has four grown children. Her youngest son received a heart transplant. As a member of the successful group blog Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, she makes monthly posts.

Susan is crazy about castles, traveling and cross-stitching, and she reads voraciously.

Read an Excerpt

Dr. Melanie Hyde stood with the other chauffeurs waiting and watching passengers outside the security zone at the top of the escalators. Overhead the notes of "Jingle Bells" were being piped via speakers throughout Niagara Falls International Airport in upstate New York. She wiggled the small white sign she held back and forth. Written on it was Reynolds.

She was there to pick up the "go-to" orthopedic sports doctor. He'd been flown in on a private jet paid for by the Niagara Falls Currents, the professional football team and her employer. Her father, the general manager, had sent her on this mission in the hope that she might, in his words, "soften the doctor up."

Melanie had no idea how she was supposed to do that. She would have to find some way because she didn't want to disappoint her father. Long ago she'd accepted what was expected of her. Not that she always liked it.

Maybe the one physician to another respect would make Dr. Reynolds see the team's need to get Martin "The Rocket" Overtree on the field for the Sunday playoff game and hopefully the weeks after that.

As club physician, Melanie had given her professional opinion but her dad wanted a second one. That hurt, but she was a team player. Had been all her life. Just once she'd like her father to see her for who she really was: a smart woman who did her job well. An individual.

In the sports world, that orthopedic second opinion came in the form of Dr. Dalton Reynolds of the Reynolds Sports and Orthopedic Center, Miami, Florida.

She'd never seen him in person but she had read plenty of his papers on the care of knee and leg injuries. "The Rocket" had a knee issue but he wanted to play and Melanie was feeling the pressure from the head office to let him. More like her father's not so gentle nudge.

Having grown up in a football-loving world, she knew the win and, in major-league ball, the money, was everything. The burden to have "The Rocket" on the field was heavy. On the cusp of a chance to go to the Super Bowl, the team's star player was needed.

She shifted her heavy coat to the other arm and scanned the crowd of passengers streaming off the escalators for a male in his midfifties and wiggled the sign again.

A tall man with close-trimmed brown hair sporting a reddish tint, carrying a tan trench coat and a black bag, blocked her view. He was do-adouble-take handsome but Melanie shifted her weight to one foot and looked around him, continuing to search the crowd.

"I'm Reynolds," the man said in a deep, husky voice that vibrated through her. The man could whisper sweet nothings in her ear all day long.

Jerking back to a full standing position, she locked gazes with his unwavering one.

"Dr. Dalton Reynolds?"

"Yes."

His eyes were the color of rich melted chocolate but they held none of the warmth. He wasn't at all who she'd anticipated. Old and stuffy, instead of tall and handsome, was what she'd had in mind. This man couldn't be more than a few years older than her. He must be truly brilliant if he was the most eminent orthopedic surgeon in the country at his age.

"Uh, I wasn't expecting you to be so…young," she blurted.

He gave her a sober look. "I'm sorry to disappoint."

She blinked and cleared her throat. "I'm not disappointed, just surprised."

"Good, then. Shouldn't we be getting my luggage? I'd like to see the patient this evening."

With it being only a week before Christmas, he must be in a hurry to return home to his family. After a moment's hesitation she said, "I don't know if that'll be possible. The players may have gone home by the time we get back."

"I didn't come all this way to spend time in my hotel room. I have a practice in Miami to be concerned with." That statement was punctuated with a curl of one corner of his mouth.

He had a nice one. Why was she thinking about his mouth when she should be talking to him about Rocket? The off-center feeling she had around this stranger unnerved her. She worked in primarily a man's world all the time and never had this type of reaction to one of them.

They started walking toward the baggage area. As they did, Melanie put the sign she was still carrying in a garbage can, then pulled her phone out of her pocket. "I'll try and get Coach. Have him ask Rocket to hang around. But football players sometimes have minds of their own."

"I can appreciate that, Ms… ?"

Melanie stopped and looked at him. He faced her, his broad shoulders blocking her view of the other people passing them.

She raised her chin. "I'm Dr. Melanie Hyde."

A flash of wonder flickered in his eyes.

Good. She'd managed to surprise him.

"Dr. Hyde, if Mr. Overtree expects my help he'll need to be examined as soon as possible. I have patients at home who are trying to stay out of wheelchairs."

With that he turned and walked toward the revolving luggage rack.

Melanie gaped at him. So much for "smoothing him over."

Dalton had little patience for silly games. Even when they were played with attractive women. He'd been astonished to find out that the team doctor was female and the person who had been sent to pick him up. Usually that job fell to a hired driver or one of the team underlings. He had to admit she was the prettiest chauffeur he'd ever had.

As far as he was concerned, he was here to do a job and nothing more. He wasn't impressed by the game of football. The only aspect that drew him in was that he cared about helping people who were hurting. He'd been called in to examine an injured player at great expense. The money he earned, good money, from making these types of "house calls" was what he used to support his foundation. It oversaw struggling foster children with physical and mental issues, giving them extra care so they had a chance to succeed in life. He would continue to do this job as long as the teams paid him top dollar. However, he didn't buy into all the football hype.

He knew from experience that not everyone was cut out for games. He'd left that far behind, being constantly teased for being the "brain with no game." It had taken time and work on his part but he'd overcome his childhood. Now he was successful in his field, had friends and a good life. He had proven anyone could overcome their past. That was why he'd started the foundation. To give other kids a step in the right direction so they didn't struggle as he had.

The tall, athletic-looking doctor came to stand beside him. She almost met him eye to eye. He liked women with long legs. Glancing down while watching the baggage conveyer as it circled in front of him, he confirmed the length of her legs. She wore a brown suit with a cream-colored blouse. There was nothing bold about her dress to make her stand out. Still, something about her pricked his interest. Her features were fine and her skin like porcelain, a complete contrast to her all-business appearance. Not of his usual fare—bleached blonde and heavy breasted—she looked more of the wholesome-girl-next-door variety. Under all that sweetness was there any fire?

He looked at the bags orbiting before him. Football was still such a man's world, so why would a woman choose to become a football team doctor?

His black leather duffel circled to him. He leaned over and picked it up. Slinging it over his shoulder, he turned to her. "I'm ready."

"This way, then." She pulled on the large down-stuffed coat she'd held. As she walked, she wrapped a knit scarf effortlessly around her neck and pulled a cap over her hair. He followed her. There was a nice sway to her hips. Even in the shapeless outfit she had a natural sex appeal. He shouldn't be having these sorts of thoughts because he wouldn't be here long enough to act on them.

The automatic glass doors opened, allowing in a blast of freezing-cold air that took his breath and made his teeth rattle. "Hold up." He stepped back inside.

She followed. He didn't miss the slight twitch at the corner of her full lips. She was laughing at him. He didn't like being laughed at.

He plopped his bag on the floor and set his shoulder bag beside it before putting on his trench coat.

"Is that the heaviest overcoat you have?" she asked.

Tying the belt at the waist, he looked directly at her. "Yes. There isn't much call for substantial clothes in Miami."

"I guess there isn't. Would you like to stop and get a warmer one on our way to the practice field?"

He shook his head as he picked up his bags again. "I don't plan to be here that long."

Again they headed out the door, Dalton tried to act as if the wind wasn't cutting right through his less-than-adequate clothes. Even with a shirt, sweater and coat he was miserable.

"Why don't you wait here and I'll circle around to get you?"

"No, I'm fine. Let's get moving." He bowed his head against the spit of icy rain.

Dalton had spent a lifetime of not appearing weak and he wouldn't change now. As the smart foster kid, he hadn't fit in at school or in the houses he'd been placed in. With a father in jail and a drug addict for a mother, he'd been in and out of homes for years. It wasn't until his mother died of an overdose that he'd stayed in one place for any length of time. At the Richies', life had been only marginally better before he was sent to another home.

He'd had plenty of food and clothes, but little about his life had been easy. When all the other kids were out playing, he was busy reading, escaping. The most miserable times were when he did join in a game. He was the last one chosen for the team. If finally picked, he then had to deal with the ridicule of being the worst player. He learned quickly not to show any weakness. As a medical student and now a surgeon, the honed trait served him well.

Football, freezing weather and a laughing woman, no matter how attractive she was, were not to his taste. He needed to do this consultation and get back to Florida.

Melanie couldn't help but find humor in the situation. Dr. Reynolds' long legs carried him at such a brisk pace, she had trouble staying in the lead enough to show him where the car was parked. He must be freezing. Niagara Falls was not only known for the falls but for the horrible winter weather. What planet did he live on that he hadn't come prepared?

She pushed the button on her key fob, unlocking the car door as they approached so that he wouldn't have to wait any longer than necessary outside. Minutes later she had the car started and the heat blasting on high. She glanced at her passenger. He took a great deal of space in her small car. Almost to the point of overwhelming her. Why was he affecting her so? Melanie glanced at him. Judging by the tenseness of his square jaw, he must be gritting his teeth to keep them from chattering.

"I'm sure it'll be warm in a few minutes."

An mmm sound of acknowledgement came from his direction as Melanie pulled out into the evening traffic on the freeway.

Her phone rang. "Please excuse me. This may be the office about Rocket." She pushed the hands-free button. "This is Mel."

"Rocket is on his way back." Her father's booming voice filled the car.

"Great. I'm sure Dr. Reynolds will be glad to hear that. We should be there in about thirty minutes." Her father hung up and she asked her passenger, "Have you ever been to Niagara Falls?"

"No."

"Well, the falls are a beautiful sight any time of the year, but especially now with the snow surrounding them."

"I don't think I'll be here long enough to do much sightseeing."

"It doesn't take much to say you've seen the falls. They're pretty large."

"What I came for is to see Mr. Overtree, so I imagine I should focus on that." Obviously he wasn't much for small talk or the local sights. Melanie stopped making an effort at conversation and concentrated on driving in the thickening snow and slow traffic. With her heavier clothes on, she began to get too warm but didn't want to turn down the heat for fear Dr. Reynolds needed it.

They were not far from the team camp when he said, "I don't think I've ever met a female team doctor before."

She'd long ago become used to hearing that statement. With a proud note in her voice she said, "As far as I know, I'm the only one in the NFL."

"What made you want to be a sports doctor?"

His voice, she bet, had mesmerized more than one woman. Where had that idea come from? What was his question? "I wanted to be a part of the world of football."

What it did was make her feel included. She'd grown up without a mother, a coach for a father and three brothers who now played professional football. In her family if you didn't eat, drink and live football you were left out. As a girl she couldn't play, so by becoming the team doctor she took her place as part of the team. Even when it wasn't her heart's desire. "Team means everything, Mel," her father would say. "That's what we are—a team." He would then hug her. To get his attention she learned early on what she needed to do as part of the team. As she grew older the pressure to be a team member grew and became harder to live with.

She often wondered what her father would say if she confessed she didn't want to belong to a team any longer. Sometimes she'd like to just be his daughter. She was afraid of what the repercussions might be. Still she would have to say she was happy, wouldn't she?

Melanie pulled the car into her designated parking space in front of the two-story, glass-windowed building. "Leave your bag in the car. I'll take you to the hotel after we're through here."

Dr. Reynolds nodded and climbed out. He wasn't large like some of the players but he did look like a man who could hold his own in a fight. With those wide shoulders and trim hips, he appeared physically fit.

"This way," she said as they entered the lobby. The space was built to impress. With hardwood floors, bright lights and the Currents' mascot and bolt of lightning painted on the wall, the place did not disappoint. No matter how many times Melanie entered this direction, she had a moment of awe. She enjoyed her job, liked the men she worked with and loved the passion of the crowd when the Currents took the field to play.

Dr. Reynolds followed her through security and down the hall to the elevator. There they waited in silence until the doors opened and they entered. She pushed the button that would take them to the bottom floor where the Athlete Performance Area and her office were located. When the elevator opened she led him along a hall painted with different football players making moves. "Rocket should be back here."

The team had a state-of-the-art workout facility, from whirlpool and sauna to a walking pool and all the other equipment on the market to help improve the human body. She was proud of the care she was able to provide for the men. Two years ago she had instituted a wellness program for retired players who continued to live nearby.

She pushed open the double swinging doors and entered her domain. Here she normally had the final say.

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