SINGLE DAD DILEMMA
After a disastrous relationship, Nurse Zady Moore just wants a family of her own and a guy with no baggage. With a young, vulnerable son, Dr. Nick Davis is exactly the kind of guy she should avoid. But his offer is too goodfree rent in exchange for occasional babysitting. And it comes at the right time, just as Zady's young goddaughter comes to stay with her. It's only for six monthssurely she can resist Nick's charms.
Nick likes Zady, and he enjoys the camaraderie of chasing after two little kids with her. But she works for his hated cousin, and with a battle brewing between departments at Safe Harbor Medical, can Nick trust that Zady's loyalties lie with him?
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Any minute now, she'd saunter into sight along the walkway, her reddish-brown hair brightening the gloomy January evening and her smile outshining the leftover holiday lights still draping the roof of the extended-stay motel. Shrugging into his sports coat, Dr. Nick Davis peered out his window at the opposite row of units.
No sign of her yet. It was 5:20 p.m., almost time for him to leave.
He'd moved into the Harbor Suites a few days ago, just before starting his position as an obstetrician at Safe Harbor Medical Center, and he'd noticed the woman right away. Identifiable by her blue-flowered nurse's uniform, she arrived home just as Nick was departing for his evening office hours, which were followed by overnight duties in Labor and Delivery.
Tonight, he planned to catch her eye and give her a friendly nod. Nothing too personal; just enough of an acknowledgment to pave the way for later conversation. Laying the groundwork, so to speak.
His cell rang. An emergency? A glance at the readout produced an irritated groan: Grandma Elaine. Elaine Car-rigan wasn't his grandmother, but the title fit her.
"Hello, Elaine," he answered.
"Nick! You aren't with a patient, are you?" Her voice had a thin, wavering quality. Maybe it was his imagination, but she sounded especially edgy.
"About to head to the office. Is Caleb okay?" Nick glanced at the large, framed photo of his three-year-old son on his coffee table. One of the few personal notes in the bare-bones apartment lined with his unopened boxes, it touched his heart afresh. Those innocent, eager brown eyes were much like Nick's, and the nearly black tumble of hair was like Bethany's.
Caleb had been an accidental blessing who'd transformed his father's life. If Nick had had his choice, the boy would have moved in with him after Bethany had passed away six months ago. However, in view of Nick's bachelor habits and the boy's painful loss of his mother, Nick had agreed that he should stay, for now, in his familiar home with his grandparents an hour's drive away.
Until this week, Nick had worked at a clinic half an hour from the Carrigans. Although he'd hated to move farther from his son and accept longer hours, the pay in his new job should enable him to achieve important goals: putting a big dent in his medical school loans and saving to provide a home for Caleb before the boy reached kindergarten age.
His arrangement with the elder Carrigans had gone smoothly until early last month, when they began occasionally postponing his weekly visits with vague excuses. Nick had always considered them reliable, unlike their daughter, but he was beginning to revise that opinion. Still, they'd celebrated Christmas together, a happy holiday for the child they all loved.
"He's fine," Elaine said. "I'm calling about Sunday."
Nick's jaw tightened. "There's no problem, is there?" He had arranged an afternoon get-together with his son.
She gave a low cough. "His best friend from preschool is having a birthday party on Sunday. Caleb brought home an invitation yesterday and that's all he talks about. We could insist he skip it, of course."
Nick knew his son loved birthday parties, and he didn't wish his visits to have unpleasant associations. Also, he'd witnessed a few meltdowns lately that in somebody else's child might be described as temper tantrums. With the boy still in a fragile emotional state, it would be unwise to push too hard.
"When does it start?" He might be able to squeeze in a pancake brunch.
"Ten o'clock," Elaine said.
"On a Sunday?"
"They attend church early, and that's when they're free. Why don't you come Saturday morning instead?"
"As I explained, I don't finish my shift until 8:00 a.m. on Saturdays and I'll be exhausted." Especially since this was his first week on the new job, and he hadn't yet acclimated to his schedule. "How about Saturday afternoon?"
"My nephew and his wife from San Francisco will be here, and Caleb adores playing with their little girl. You could join us, I suppose, but mostly he'll be busy with his little friend."
Nick tried to contain his exasperation. Lately, negotiating arrangements for his weekend visits seemed almost as tricky as trying to establish peace in the Middle East. He didn't recall Elaine acting this difficult in the past, but after the holidays she might be clinging extra hard to her grandson.
Through the window, he spotted the pretty red-haired nurse approaching on the walkway. Their encounter, which he'd been looking forward to, would have to be postponed or he'd be late. His evening patients, most of whom were referrals meeting him for the first time, deserved the assurance that Nick cared enough to stick to his schedule.
His son deserved to know he cared enough to maintain regular visits, too. Bethany had never been good at keeping to a routine, and as a result, Nick had been lucky to see his son a few times a month. Since her death, however, he'd resolved to provide a stable influence. Also, at three, his son had become old enough to enjoy longer outings.
"I can't skip a whole weekend with Caleb." Holding the phone to his ear, Nick stepped outside into the crisp air. "I'll be there Sunday night even if it's only for an hour."
Elaine caught her breath. He could almost hear her thinking fast. "I'll tell you what. Saturday evening, my nephew and his wife plan to take the children to a puppet show in north Orange County. Why don't you go with them? It's halfway between us. I can email you the details."
"That'll be fine." Locking the door, Nick conceded that, while he preferred to be alone with his son, this was a reasonable compromise. It might be extra fun for Caleb, too. "Thanks, Elaine."
"My pleasure." She sounded relieved.
What was going on with the Carrigans? Next weekend, Nick resolved to ask her. They all had to work together for Caleb's benefit.
Turning, he discovered that the nurse had paused to chat with a neighbor. The delay offered a second chance. Nick could afford to carry out his original plan as long as he didn't stop for any lengthy flirting, which he hadn't intended, anyway.
He cut across the sparse lawn between a couple of squatty palm trees intent on shedding as many fronds as possible. Pacing his steps, he reached his target just as the neighbor disappeared into a unit and the nurse took out her keys.
At close range, she was taller than he'd guessed, perhaps five foot six, and he caught an appealing whiff of flowers. Sharp, intelligent gray eyes fixed on him questioningly.
"Hi, there," Nick said casually. That was her cue to nod or smile or both. Instead, she froze, keys in hand, blinking at him.
Some people didn't react well to the unexpected. "We haven't met before," he said to bridge the silence, and extended his hand. "I'm Dr. Davis." While using his title could seem pompous, it might reassure her that he, too, worked at the medical center.
Another blink. "The hell you are!" she snapped, ignoring his outstretched hand. "Now, if you don't mind?"
He was blocking her path, he realized. "Sorry." Too stunned to figure out how else to react, Nick moved aside at the same moment as the nurse. After an awkward shuffle on the sidewalk, he cut his losses and stomped across the grass toward the parking lot. Behind him, he heard her door open and slam shut.
Sliding into his old blue coupe, Nick replayed the conversation, baffled. He'd said hello and introduced himself, and she'd answered, "The hell you are."
The hell he was what? A doctor? True, he hadn't yet put on his white coat, since he'd rather not risk soiling it. And he sported a few days' growth of stubble, but why should that have provoked her response? Nick liked the casual effect of the beard, and Dr. Mark Rayburn, the administrator, hadn't objected during their interview.
Rayburn had initially chosen another doctor for this position, Nick conceded as he exited the parking lot. He'd landed the job after his rival discovered over the holidays that she was pregnant, and decided against taking on such crazy hours.
Still, he'd been the runner-up. He assumed plenty of OBs had applied to the prestigious facility, which over the past half-dozen years had been transformed from a community hospital into an internationally recognized fertility center.
Nope, he decided as he cruised along the quiet residential streets en route to the hospital. His rough jaw wasn't enough to warrant a slammed door.
Maybe the woman simply hated doctors in general. In that case, why had she become a nurse? Or did her blue-flowered uniform indicate something else? Perhaps she worked at a strip joint whose themed attractions included nurse-doctor seductions.
Better idea: quit thinking about her and move on.
The medical complex came into view, dominated by the six-story hospital with its graceful curving wings. Beside it, along the circular driveway, stood the medical building where, during his early-evening hours, Nick shared office space with several fellow obstetricians.
Scaffolding and signs warned of construction at the third low-rise tower, a five-story former dental building recently purchased by the hospital to expand the men's fertility program. It should also, Nick had heard, contain enough remodeled medical suites to liberate the younger obstetrical staff from their cramped quarters.
By the time he parked, it was still only a quarter to six. What a joy to live within a mile of his workplace, he mused as he got out.
Through the early-winter darkness, lights shone from the medical building. Nick entered to see the elevator doors sliding open. He quickened his pace.
Then he spotted its sole occupant, an all-too-familiar woman. The same woman who'd just snubbed him outside his apartment.
How had she zipped over here and gone upstairs? At second glance, he saw that she'd also done a quick change into slacks and a loose top.
Nick halted so fast he stumbled and nearly collided with her. "Excuse me," he muttered.
"No problem." She smiled, which gave her face a softer cast. On further inspection, Nick registered that her hair had grown several inches and her figure had gained a matronly heft.
Obviously, this wasn't the same woman. Waving apologetically, he said, "You startled me. I think I just met your twin."
They really were twins? "She didn't introduce herself."
"Well, that's who she is, Zady Moore. I'm Zora." The young woman extended her hand, which he found firm and warm. "Zora Moore Mendez, to be precise."
"I'm Dr. Nick Davis. I only started working here two days ago, so I haven't met many people," Nick explained. "I'm an OB."
"Oh, your suite is on the third floor." She appeared well informed. "You might have met my husband, Lucky Mendez. He's Dr. Rattigan's nurse, on the fourth floor."
Joining a staff meant learning a lot of names and faces. Doctors had to be adept at memorization to master human anatomy and keep prescription medications straight, and fortunately, Nick had been blessed with an unusually good memory. He didn't need it to identify Dr. Cole Rattigan, though. The renowned urologist headed the men's fertility program here, and was overseeing the transformation of the new building.
"I don't think I've met your husband, but I'm sure I will," Nick said. "Do you work here, too?"
Nearby, a second elevator discharged more people. He ought to hurry, but he hoped for a clue that might account for Zady's rude reaction.
"I'm an ultrasound tech on maternity leave," Zora said. "We have two-month-old twins."
"You must have amazing stamina," Nick told her.
"Why do you say that?"
"No dark circles." He wasn't flattering her. Having stayed up for the past couple of nights, he appreciated how well rested she looked.
"Helpful housemates," the woman said cheerfully. "They're babysitting right now while I bring dinner for Lucky, since he and his doctor are working late."
"I'm sure they're busy these days." It didn't appear that Nick was going to find out anything more, and he had to go. "Nice meeting you, and your twin."
Zora shared a conspiratorial smile. "I'd say you have a twin of sorts, too."
A possible explanation? Nick went on high alert. "Who's that?"
Her head tilted in surprise. "The other Dr. Davis."
"The other ?" Then it hit himthe explanation for that cute nurse's decidedly unattractive response to him.
Nick should have done a lot more research before he decided to come to Safe Harbor.
Zady took a late lunch on Friday due to her doctor's busy schedule. A brilliant urological reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Marshall Davis commanded respect bordering on adulation. Since he'd joined Safe Harbor Medical two months ago, patients had flocked to him, putting a heavy load on his office nurseZadyas well as his surgical staff.
Zady didn't mind the challenges of the job; she was grateful for it. The man had chosen her from a long list of applicants, and consistently inspired her to do her best. This post might be more stressful than her previous position with a urologist in Santa Barbara, north of Los Angeles, but she took pride in it and it meant a lot to her.
In the cafeteria, she plopped a salad onto her tray and, while waiting in line to pay, surveyed the airy, chatter-filled room for friends. Not that she had many yet, but her twin, Zora, had introduced her to a few people. She'd met others when they greeted her in the hall by the wrong name, and she explained the mistake.
Mistakes. Her sister had phoned her last night to tell her about her encounter with the other Dr. Davis. Zady's cheeks heated with embarrassment. Despite her initial shock at being approached by a man who strongly resembled her bossand then hearing him claim the same nameshe should have known better.
After all, she had an identical twin. Yet, having done a bit of internet research on her boss, Zady knew the doctor was an only child. And also unmarried, not that she pictured him in a romantic light. Marshall Davis was cool, remote and precise, as a surgeon should be.
According to Zora, the stranger was apparently Marshall's cousin, which explained the strong resemblance. Zora had also heard from her husbandwho kept an ear to the groundthat the men didn't get along. Fortunately, they worked in different departments.
Speaking of her brother-in-law, there sat Lucky at a table across the room with his friend and landlady, Karen Wiggins Vintner, a financial counselor. The forty-something Karen, black hair clouding around her thin face, was talking animatedly.
After paying for her salad, Zady started forward, then paused as a lanky male figure crossed her path, her iced tea sloshing in her glass. Taller than his cousin, she registered.
"I didn't mean to Oh, it's you." Nick Davis broke stride, oblivious to having cut off a couple of lab technicians. They circled past, keeping their no-doubt unflattering responses to themselves. "Startling you seems to be a habit of mine."
How had she ever confused him with her doctor? That casual air, the smile playing around the corners of his mouth, the way his gaze lingered on her totally relaxed, but also unwelcome. She recalled what Marshall had said this morning when she mentioned running into his cousin.
"Nicholas is a playboy," he'd commented briskly. "Got a girl pregnant a few years ago and didn't bother to marry her or support their kid. You're too smart to fall for a loser like him."
"You bet I am," she'd answered.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What's a father to do? Nick finally got custody of his son, Caleb, when his ex died. But he had just moved his obstetrician practice to the Safe Harbor Medical Center so he wasn't settled or established in the area yet. Because of this, he didn't think it was good for the boy to live with him yet. Letting Caleb live with his grandparents until he was more organized seemed like the best idea. That was until his mother-in-law started giving him a hard time about visits. Once Caleb came to live with Nick, he had a new problem. Who would care for him while he worked nights? The solution came with nurse Zady. She needed a place to live which Nick would provide if she agreed to look after Caleb. The timing was perfect for Zady since she had agreed to care for her goddaughter for a month. Zady was worried about being involved with Nick after her last relationship didn't go well or end well, either. Nick only wanted to focus on his son, not a relationship. He had concerns about having Zady share his house and childcare duties because she worked for his cousin, who he didn't get along with. Zady was a kind, loving woman. She was wonderful with her goddaughter and Caleb. That wasn't always an easy job when it came to Caleb. He wasn't adjusting to his new life well and had tantrums at times. She was also a good nurse. It could not have been easy for her to work for the two cousins who she knew didn't like each other. But she made sure that she didn't let her personal and professional lives cross. Nick's practice and son took up most of his life leaving him no time for relationships. He was a good man but had not had the best childhood which, of course, affects him as an adult. His ongoing battle with his cousin didn't help matters. Having Zady work for him left Nick with the concern of whether he could trust her. However, as Zady and Nick spend more time together, and with the children, their feelings grow. I really liked Nick and Zady's story. They had their ups and downs due to their own miscommunication as well as outside forces but in the end, I'm glad they got their happy ending. Loved the children. They were great additions to the story. One of them did the sweetest thing near the end, that brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my face. This was definitely an enjoyable read.
The Doctor’s Accidental Family Harlequin American Romance # 1563 September 2015 Jacqueline Diamond The 16th book of the “Safe Harbor Medical” series. Dr. Nick Davis had moved his obstetrician practice to the Safe Harbor Medical Center, in hopes of being able to have Caleb, his three-year-old son, live with him. Caleb had lost Bethany, his mother, and was now staying with her parents. Nick was only able to see Caleb a few hours on the weekends. Nick was attracted to Nurse Zady Moore. Zady had left a relationship with a father whose kids came first and the kids treated her like a servant. Zady swore she would never have a relationship with another family man. Nick had been planning to get a house when he found out Caleb’s grandparents were having health problems. Nick offered Zady free rent, no utilities, and free food if she would come and stay in the house for a year to care for Caleb while Nick worked at night. Jacqueline Diamond revisits Safe Harbor as Nick tries to overcome the problems of being a full time father. Nick and Zady are attracted to each other but they are fighting the attraction because of their past relationship disasters. I hope you will rejoin the nurses and doctors in this series as they work to save lives.