When cool, collected hospital director Charlotte Edwards throws caution to the wind for one hot, reckless night with Dr. Trent Dalton she has no idea it's going to backfire on her so spectacularlybecause the next morning she has to bury her pride and ask for his help!
Trent shouldn't mix business with pleasure again! But Charlotte is a delicious temptation he just can't resist. Yet when Trent finds out she's been keeping him around under false pretenses he might just have to teach this little minx a lesson in passion!
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It was all she could do not to throw her stupid phone out of the car window.
Why wasn't he answering? Charlotte Edwards huffed out a breath and focused on driving as fast as she possibly could-not an easy task on the potholed dirt road that was just muddy enough to send her sliding into a tree if she wasn't careful.
Thank goodness it was only May in Liberia, West Africa, and just the beginning of the rainy season. Her battered four-by-four handled the terrible roads pretty well, but once they were inches deep with mud and water all bets were off.
Adrenaline surging, Charlie cautiously pressed harder on the gas pedal. No matter how uncomfortable it would make her feel, she absolutely had to catch Trent Dalton at the airport before he left-then tell him off for not answering his phone. If he had, she'd have paid for a taxi to bring him back stat to her little hospital, instead of wasting time making this trek both ways.
The sudden ringing of her phone made her jump and she snatched it up, hoping it was Trent, seeing she'd called a dozen times. "So you finally decided to look at your phone?"
The hospital technician sounded surprised and no wonder. Her stomach twisted with dread, hoping he wasn't delivering bad news. "Sorry. You calling with an update?"
"The boy is still holding his own. I pray he'll be okay until Dr. Dalton gets back here. But I wanted to tell you that Dr. Smith has offered to do the appendectomy."
"What? Tell him no way. I'm not having a liar and a hack working on any of our patients-unless Trent's already gone, in which case we'll have no choice but to reconsider. I'll let you know as soon as I get to the airport."
She hung up and shook her head, managing a little smile. The word "Ma" was used as a sign of respect in Liberia, and no matter how many times she'd asked Thomas just to call her Charlie, or Charlotte, he never did.
Dr. Smith had been sent by the Global Physicians Coalition to work at the Henry and Louisa Edwards Mission Hospital for a one-year commission. But when his arrival had been delayed they'd asked Trent to fill in for the five days until Smith could get there. Though he'd just finished a stint in India, Trent had thankfully not minded his vacation being delayed until Smith showed up.
Not long after Trent had left to start his vacation, though, the GPC called to tell her they had discovered that Smith had falsified his credentials. No way would she have him work here now.
And, because problems came in multiples, they had a very sick little boy whose life just might depend on getting surgery pronto. If only John Adams, her right-hand man for everything to do with the hospital and school, hadn't been off getting supplies today. Charlie would've sent him to drag Trent back to take care of the little boy, saving her from enduring an hour's drive in close quarters with the man. That was, if he hadn't flown off to wherever he was going next.
Anxiety ratcheting up another notch, Charlie almost called Trent again, knowing there was little point. Then she spotted the airport in the distance. Shoving down the gas pedal, hands sweating, she slithered and bumped her way down the road, parked nearly sideways and ran inside.
Relief at seeing him still sitting there nearly made her knees weak. And, of course, that weakness had nothing to do with again seeing the gorgeous man she'd enjoyed a one-night stand with just hours ago. Memories of what they'd spent the night doing filled her cheeks with hot embarrassment, and she wished with all her being she'd known their last kiss this morning wouldn't really be goodbye. She wished she had known before she'd fallen into bed with him. If she had, she most definitely would have resisted the delicious taste of his mouth and the all too seductive smile.
He was slouched in a hard chair, his long legs stretched out in front of him, a Panama hat pulled over his face with just his sensuous lips visible. Lips that had touched every inch of her body, mortified heat rushed back to her face. Even sitting, his height made him stand out among the passengers sprawled everywhere in the airport. A battered leather bag sat next to his feet. His arms were folded across his chest and he looked sound asleep.
Dang it, this was all too awkward. She squirmed with discomfort at the very same time her nerveendings tingled at the pleasure of seeing him again. Disgusted with herself, she took a deep breath, stepped closer and kicked his shoe. "Wake up. We need to talk."
She saw him stiffen, but other than that he didn't move, obviously pretending he hadn't heard her. What-he thought she'd come all this way just to kiss him goodbye again? Been there, done that and now it was over between them. This was about business, not pleasure. But with that thought instantly came other thoughts. Thoughts of all the pleasure she'd enjoyed with him last night, which made her even more annoyed with herself.
"I know you're not asleep, Trent Dalton. Look at me." She kicked him in the ankle this time, figuring that was sure to get his attention.
"Ow, damn it." He yanked back his leg and his finger inched up the brim of his hat until she could see the nearly black hair waving across his forehead. His light blue eyes looked at her, cautious and wary. "What are you doing here, Charlotte?"
"I'm here because you wouldn't answer your stupid cell phone."
"I turned it off. I'm on vacation."
"If you'd left it on, I wouldn't have had to spend an hour driving here, worried I wouldn't catch you before you left. We have to talk."
"Listen." His expression became pained. "It was great being with you, and moving on can be hard, you know? But going through a long-drawn-out goodbye will just make it all tougher."
"We can't say goodbye just yet."
"I'm sorry, Charlotte. I have to leave. I promise you'll be fine."
Of all the arrogant.. Did he really think women had a hard time getting over him after one night of fun? Fabulous fun, admittedly, but still. She felt like conking him on the head. "Sorry, but you have to come back."
"I can't," he said in a soft and gentle voice, his blue eyes now full of pity and remorse. "We both knew we only had one night together. Tomorrow will be better. It will. In a few weeks, you'll forget all about me."
"You are so incredibly full of yourself." She couldn't control a laugh that ended in a little snort. The man was unbelievable. "Our fling was over the second you kissed me goodbye, tipped your hat and left with one of your adorable smiles and the "maybe see ya again sometime, babe" parting remark. What would make you think I had a problem with that? That's not why I'm here."
He stared at her, and she concentrated on keeping her expression nonchalant, even amused. She wasn't about to give him even a hint that she would think about him after he was gone.
"So why are you here, then?"
"I'm throwing out the new surgeon."
"Throwing him out?" Trent sat up straight.
"What do you mean?"
"The GPC contacted me to tell me they found he'd falsified his credentials. That he'd had his license suspended in the U.S. for alcohol and drug use-over-prescribing of narcotics."
"Damn, so he's a loose cannon." He frowned. "But that doesn't mean he's not a good surgeon."
"Just because we're in the middle of West Africa doesn't mean our docs shouldn't be top notch. The GPC left it up to me whether I wanted him to work for us or not. And I refuse to have someone that unethical, maybe even doped up, working on our patients."
"So when is the GPC sending a new surgeon?"
"As soon as possible. They think they can get someone temporary like you were in a few days, no more than a week. Then they'll round up a doc who can be here for the year. All you have to do is come back until the temp gets here, or a day or two before."
"I can't. I just spent a solid year in India and I need a break before I start my new job in the Philippines. I have vacation plans I can't change."
She had to wonder what woman those plans might be with. "I don't believe your vacation is more important to you than your job."
"Hey, the only reason I worked twelve straight months was to pay for my vacation."
"Yeah, right." She made a rude sound in her throat. "Like you couldn't make tons more money as a surgeon in the U.S., paying for vacations and country club memberships and fancy cars. Nobody works in a mission hospital for the money."
"Maybe I couldn't get a job in the U.S." His normally laughing eyes were oddly serious.
"Mmm-hmm." She placed her hands on the arms of his seat and leaned forward, her nose nearly touching his. The clean, manly scent of him surrounded her, making her heart go into a stupid, accelerated pit-pat. But she wasn't about to back down. "So, I never did ask-why do you work exclusively in tiny hospitals all over the world, pulling up stakes every year? Most docs work for the GPC part-time."
"Running from the law." His lips were so close, his breath touching her skin, and more than anything she wanted to close that small gap and kiss him one more time. "Murdered my last girlfriend after she followed me to the airport."
She had to chuckle even as she watched his eyes darken, showing he still felt the same crazy attraction she felt. That she'd felt the first second she'd met him. "I always knew you were a dangerous man, Trent Dalton. I just didn't realize quite how dangerous."
Just as she felt herself leaning in, about to kiss his sexy mouth against her will, she managed to mentally smack herself. Straightening, she stepped back.
"So. We have an immediate problem that can't wait for you to think about whether playing golf or chasing skirts, or whatever you do on vacation, is more important than my little hospital."
"We've got a seven-year-old boy who's got a hot appendix. Thomas is afraid it will rupture and says he doesn't have the skill to handle it."
"Why does he think it's his appendix? Even if it is, Thomas is a well-trained tech. I was impressed as hell at the great job he does on hernias."
"Hernias aren't the same thing as an appendix, which I think you know, Dr. Dalton. Thomas says he's sure that's what it is-that you're the only one who can do it. And to tell you that the last thing the kid needs is to get septic."
His brow lowered in thought before he spoke. "What are his symptoms?"
"His mother says he hasn't eaten for two days. He's been feverish-temp of one-hundred-point-four-and vomiting."
"Belly ache and vomiting? Maybe it's just the flu."
"The abdominal pain came first, then the vomiting."
"Has the pain moved?"
"From his umbilicus to right lower quadrant." She slapped her hands back onto the chair arms. Was the man going to ask questions all day in the hope of still getting away from here? "Listen, Trent. It's been thirty-six hours. If the appendix doesn't come out, it's going to rupture. I don't need to tell you the survival rates of peritonitis in this part of the world."
A slow smile spread across Trent's face before he laughed. "Maybe you should do the surgery. Why the hell didn't you become a doctor?"
"I can get doctors. I can't get somebody to run that hospital. So are you coming?"
He just looked at her, silent, his amusement now gone. The worry on his face touched her heart, because she was pretty sure it was on her behalf-that he didn't want to come back because she might get hurt, which she'd bet had happened often enough in his life as a vagabond doctor.
As though it had a mind of its own, her palm lifted to touch his cheek. "I've only known you a few days, but that's enough time to realize you're a man of honor. I'm sure you'll come take care of this little boy and stick it out until we can get someone else. A one-night fling was all it was meant to be for either of us-anything more would be pointless and messy. From now on, our relationship is strictly professional. So let's go before the boy gets sicker."
His hand pressed against the back of hers, held it a moment against his cheek then lowered it to gently set her away from him. "You're good, I'll give you that." He unfolded from the chair and stood, looking down at her. "But I can only stay a few more days, so don't be trying to guilt me into more than that. I mean it."
"Agreed." She stuck out her hand to seal the deal, and he wrapped his long, warm fingers around hers. She gave his hand a quick, brisk shake then yanked her own loose but didn't manage to erase the imprint of it.
It was going to be a long couple of days.
As the car bounced in and out of ruts on the way back to the hospital, Trent glanced at the fascinating woman next to him while she concentrated on her driving. The shock of seeing Charlotte's beautiful face at the airport had nearly knocked the wind out of him. The face he'd seen all morning as he'd waited to get away from it.
He stared at her strong, silky eyebrows, lowered in concentration over eyes as green as a Brazilian rainforest. Her thick brown hair touched with streaks of bronze flowed over her shoulders, which were exposed by the sleeveless shirts she liked to wear. He nearly reached to slide his fingers over that pretty skin, and to hell with distracting her from driving.
He sucked in a breath and turned his attention back to the road. How could one night of great sex have seemed like something more than the simple, pleasant diversion it was supposed to have been?
"The road is worst these last couple miles, so hang on to your hat," she said, a smile on the pink lips whose imprint he'd still been feeling against his own as he'd sat in that damned airport for hours.
"You want me to drive?"
"Uh, no. We'd probably end up around a tree. You stick with doctoring and let me handle everything else."
He chuckled. The woman sure took her role as hospital director seriously, and to his surprise he enjoyed it. How had he never known he liked bossy women?
"So, where were you headed?" Charlotte asked.
"Florence." But for once he hadn't known what the hell he was going to do with himself for the three weeks the GPC gave doctors off between jobs. Getting in touch with one of his old girlfriends and spending time with her, whoever it might be, in London, Thailand or Rio until his next job began was how he always spent his vacation.
"Alone? Never mind. Pretend I didn't ask."
"Yeah, alone." She probably wouldn't believe it, but it was true. He hadn't called anyone. He couldn't conjure the interest, which was damned annoying. So he'd be spending three weeks in Italy all by his lonesome, with too much time to think about the fiery woman sitting next to him. The woman with the sweet, feminine name who preferred going by the name of a man.
Charlotte. Charlie. If only he could have three weeks of warms days and nights filled with her in Florence, Rome and the Italian Riviera-with her sharp mind, sense of humor and gorgeous, touchable body. Last night had been He huffed out a breath and stared out of the window. Not a good idea to let his thoughts go any further about that right now.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When Charlotte Edwards, the administrator of a mission hospital in the African state of Liberia, throws caution to the wind and indulges in a night of passion with Trent Dalton, a temporary doctor, she knows she’d never see him again, so it doesn’t matter. The very next day, she’s forced to go to the airport and beg him to return, as his placement is totally unsuitable. Mercifully, he postpones his travel plans in order to help out, but now she’s faced with the total embarrassment of her one night of indiscretion coming back to haunt her again and again…. Trent? He likes to love ‘em and leave ‘em. A man who comes from a privileged background, he wants to make his own mark on the world. He wants to use his surgical skills to make a difference to people’s lives and not to have to live up to the reputation of his family, who have enough money and renown to make it possible for him to lead a life of wealth and ease. What he doesn’t understand is Charlotte’s passion for setting up a plastic surgery unit in a mission field. Is cosmetic surgery the aim of a mission hospital? Surely just saving lives is more important? Can this pair of misfits ever get together in the true sense, rather than in a one-off encounter? That’s the question and I have to say that I found this a story told with wit, warmth and humor. It was also wonderful to get a chance to visit Liberia, a country about which I’ve always been curious. An English-speaking state, set up by freed American slaves. Get a copy of this book, read and enjoy. Although Harlequin M&B books tend to go out of print after a very short time, ebooks are always available. I totally heart this book and recommend it to readers of romance, medical, contemporary and otherwise. I received a print copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Maria, RBH Reviews