First, for those keeping track. In my last post, Spring is on the Way, I mentioned trying to grow plants my brother-in-law helped my girls plant. I am not so proud to say that we killed them all. But fear not, my neighbors have taken pity on me, and my plant killer tendencies, and helped me transplant some plants they swear I can’t kill (only time will tell).
Now on to the SUPER FUN news!
Oh my gosh it’s a little less than a week until The Pediatrician’s Twin Bombshell releases. I love the hero of this story! I know authors are technically supposed to say that about all their characters, unless they’re villains. But some characters jump into your heart and nestle themselves there long after their stories have been written and that is how Gabe is for me. He is so ooey gooey!
So below is the first scene of the book. I hope you love Tessa and Gabe’s happily ever after too!
DR. TESSA GARCIA leaned against the bar and slid the back of her heel out of the four-inch peep-toe shoes she’d crammed her feet into. The shoes had been uncomfortable when she’d purchased them three years ago, but she didn’t remember them being such torture devices.
What had possessed her to wear them?
The same ridiculous urge that had driven her to give in to Lily’s plea that she come tonight. Tessa had hoped that this outing might stem the loneliness that clawed at her when she collapsed into bed. At least for an hour.
She should have known better. But she’d wanted to believe she might still have a place with these people.
That she wasn’t completely alone.
Tessa glared at the martini sign hanging from the bar. The former dive bar had been revamped over the last year. The pathetic-looking burned-out neon bar signs were now upscale artwork. But the worn bar and exposed brick walls were still the same. Likely a design aesthetic Tessa didn’t understand—or maybe the new owners had run out of money during their revitalization effort.
Revitalization. Tessa hated that word. Out with the old, in with the new—the phrase applied to people, too, apparently.
A cackle went up from the patio, and Tessa hated the heat coating her cheeks. She didn’t belong here now. This had always been Max’s place. His social circle, his
night to shine. She’d been a girlfriend, and then a wife, but never a friend. That realization sent more regret washing through her.
They’d divorced a little over a year ago, though they’d inhabited the realm of uncomfortable roommates instead of spouses for far too long. She and Max might not have been able to save their union, but she hadn’t thought the women she’d considered friends would also be casualties of their failed marriage.
But they were all married to Max’s college buddies. God, Tessa wanted to slap herself. She should have been smart enough to make that connection.
Maybe if she had spoken to anyone outside the hospital in the last month besides food delivery people…
Tessa’s eyes looked to the ceiling as her foolishness washed over her—again. The people in the corner had all stared when she’d popped in, the press of pity in their gazes as they tried to pretend it was fine that she’d stopped by. Even Lily’s bright exclamations hadn’t been able to cover the pink on her cheeks as her eyes darted between Tessa and her ex-husband’s new bride.
Her divorce had been easy—at least on paper. Her lawyer had called it textbook. She and Max had divided their savings account, sold the starter home they’d purchased and said goodbye to their shared lives. It was the after that had rocked her.
In all her failed attempts to make him happy, Max’s hobbies and dreams had taken precedent. When she’d suggested hiking or visiting the botanical gardens, or even hanging out in the backyard where she’d cultivated a relaxing green space, he’d balked. He’d point out that she was always asking him to do more than his share of things. That she should want to do what he wanted, since he was handling everything at home so she could advance at the hospital.
That hadn’t been the full truth. He’d done slightly more than half the chores and complained every step of the way. But she’d given in every time. That still rankled.
Her father hadn’t appreciated being asked to do anything for his family, either. Tessa’s mom had always made excuses for him—just like Tessa had for Max. Tessa had watched her mom try everything to hold on to her marriage. Then she’d watched the catastrophic aftermath.
She’d witnessed all of it, and rather than protecting herself, Tessa had given in to a man’s desires, too, hoping that by ceding her likes, her friends, her dreams,Max might look at her like he had when they first started dating, hoping that she could have the happy family she’d always craved.
As an only child, Tessa had longed for siblings. For a home life that didn’t rock between stony silence and angry shouts. Tessa had wanted to believe her union would differ from her mother’s. But life rarely produced fairy tales, and the Garcia women always seemed to end up alone.
At least she had a thriving career as a pediatric attending at Dallas Children’s Hospital. Her ex-husband hadn’t been able to strip that from her, though he had stolen the promotion they had offered her at Cincinnati Children’s.
Maybe Tessa should have moved without him. But she hadn’t been willing to admit what, deep down, she’d already known. Her marriage had been over long before they’d finalized the divorce decree.
She’d put so much of herself aside for Max, and what did she have? A closet full of colorful scrubs—and comfy shoes. And no one to grab drinks with. No one to see a movie or go to the botanical garden with. No one at the other end of the phone. And no senior attending position.
Hell, she’d even given up the garden she’d cultivated so carefully because Max had wanted to sell their home. Instead of fighting or making a sound argument for why she should purchase it, Tessa had just consented to the sale.
Her townhome didn’t have a lot of extra space for a garden. Tessa harrumphed as she spun the ice around her cup. She’d been so focused on finding a spot close to work—and away from her ex—that she’d rushed the purchase. But she had her independence, and she would never let a man dictate her path again.
“I didn’t think Max and Stephanie were coming.” Lily’s cheeks were red as she fanned herself and waved for another drink. “I swear, she’s barely old enough to be in here.” Lily dramatically rolled her eyes to the ceiling as she leaned against the bar.
“Mmm-hmm.” Tessa kept her gaze focused on the ice melting in the glass that once held club soda. Lily might not be drunk…yet, but the wife of her ex-husband’s oldest friend was tipsy enough to repeat anything Tessa might say.
At least the bubbly blonde had interrupted Tessa’s pity party.
“It was nice to see you. Guess I probably shouldn’t—”
She bit back the last part of that sentence, but Tessa had no problems filling in the silence. This would be the last time she was invited.
A martini appeared in front of them, and Lily sighed. “If I hear one more word about college sports…” Her first sip almost emptied the fancy glass. She laid her hand on Tessa’s arm and then flounced back to the patio.
College athletics might not be interesting, but, apparently, neither was spending time with an ex-wife who didn’t know her place. Lily clearly regretted the multiple texts she’d sent begging Tessa to show up tonight.
Not that it really mattered.
Over the years, girlfriends had come and gone, and now she was the first wife who was being booted from the group. It was past time for her to go home.
“Those heels look like hell.”
She sighed. Flirting in a bar had never been her scene, but flirting in a bar where her ex-husband and all his friends were drinking felt like an extra level of desperation.
And she was not desperate. Lonely, but not desperate. Never desperate.
“I’ve already asked for the check and am going home to get out of these torture devi—” Her tongue froze as she met the honey eyes next to her.
God, he was gorgeous! His dark hair was trimmed, but a bit of a five o’clock shadow accented his firm jaw. His arms were muscular without looking like all he did was grunt in front of a gym mirror and drop weights on the floor.
Clearing her throat, she held up her empty glass and tried to push the unexpected arousal away. The man before her was extraordinary.
“Just let me strike out. Then I can tell my sister I tried and go home myself.” He winked before waving over her shoulder. “If you want to throw the ice in my face to make it look really convincing, she will definitely let me off the hook.”
Tessa laughed and had to stop herself from leaning closer. “I’ve never thrown anything in someone’s face. But now I kind of want to.”
“The option stands.” Two dimples appeared in the Adonis’s cheeks. “But if you keep laughing, it won’t be believable—though I wouldn’t complain. Even with the air-conditioning, this place still feels like an outer ring of—”
He caught the last word, and Tessa beamed. “Not from Texas, then?” The question slipped between them, and she gripped her glass. She hadn’t meant to drag out this encounter, but she suddenly didn’t want it to end.
She really needed to make some new friends…or set up a dating profile on one of the apps the single medical professionals were always discussing. No. She was not interested in that.
But what was five extra minutes in this hellhole, if it was with the dreamboat before her? At least he’d give her something delicious to think about in her lonely bed tonight.
“Originally, yes. But I’ve been out of the state for years. I forgot how hot it was in Dallas in June.” He leaned over her shoulder, then shook his head. “She just gave me a thumbs-up. Ah, well, I can still tell her you told me to take a hike in a few minutes. I’m Gabe.”
“Gabe?” The subtle shift in his voice tickled the back of her brain. Her gaze wandered his chiseled cheeks, and the bite of recognition stole through her. It couldn’t be…“Gabe Davis?”
Tessa blinked as she tried to reconcile the stunning hunk before her with the teenager who’d spent a summer working with her in the Tinseltown theater. The honey eyes and smile were the same, and her mood lightened even further as he tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. He’d been cute then, and most of the staff had swooned over him.
Tessa had, too. They’d even shared an impromptu kiss late one night.
Then he’d disappeared.
She gave her best fake smile, “You forgot to tell me you’d like extra butter layered in your popcorn. Of course it’s not too much trouble to get you a fresh one.”
Gabe’s deep chuckle rumbled through her, and this time Tessa didn’t stop herself as she leaned closer. “I’d heard you left Texas. I assume it was for someplace cooler, given your hatred of this lovely June evening.”
She bit the inside of her cheek as that piece of information floated out. She hadn’t gone looking for him…not really. He’d been a recommended friend on social media, and she’d clicked on his profile once. Just for nostalgia’s sake.
There’d been a picture of a lot of snow and a notice that he only shared his information with friends. She’d almost pushed the bright blue request button, but she’d resisted. Barely.
“I was in Maine. Just moved back.” A shadow passed over Gabe’s eyes as he signaled for the bartender, but it disappeared quickly.
If she’d had something other than club soda in her glass, she might be able to pretend the haunted gaze had never existed. But she was at a bar avoiding her ex-husband and his friends, so who was she to pass any judgment?
“Can I get a Coke and—” he turned to Tessa “—I owe you a drink for saving me from my sister’s matchmaking schemes.”
“Club soda with lime.” Tessa pursed her lips as the barkeep barely kept the smile on his face. She’d worked in a bar through college and knew their tab wasn’t enough to keep the great service coming. Still, she laid some extra on the counter as he put the two cups in front of them. “To cover the first club soda.”
The man’s shoulders relaxed a little, and he added an extra lime before passing them the drinks.
“If you’re up for it, why don’t we see if there are any seats on the patio? Get you off those dastardly high heels.”
“My ex-husband is back there with his new wife.” The words slipped from her lips, and Tessa could have throttled herself. The last person she wanted to talk about was her ex. But she also didn’t want to sit back there talking to Gabe while all the people she’d thought were her friends either ignored her or studied this interaction.
“I really was getting ready to leave when you walked up. It wasn’t a lie.” She raised the drink to her lips, enjoying the bubbles tickling her nose. “Pathetic, I know.”
“Nope.” Gabe shook his head. “Plus, this saves me having to politely pretend I’m not sweltering back there while we nurse our nonalcoholic beverages and try to figure out how long we have to play catch-up.”
He tilted his glass toward her, and his dimples sent another rush down her back. Pressing her fingers to her lips, she shook her head. How did this man make her swoon with just a few minutes of conversation?
“What if I want to catch up?” The question surprised her, but it was the sincerity behind it that nearly made her knees buckle. She wanted to catch up with Gabe. Wanted to know what the gorgeous, clever man—whose sister was thrilled he was talking to someone in a bar—had done for the last two decades.
Maybe discover why he’d disappeared after they’d kissed. No. That was not a question she was going to ask.
They’d had fun working behind the concession stand at the theater and goofed off more than they probably should when the theater was dead on the weeknights. But they hadn’t gone to the same high school. Their final flirtation, which had led to her first kiss, had felt like…well, it had felt like the rush of first crushes that only teenagers could experience.
She still remembered being hurt that he hadn’t warned her he was quitting. If it had been a few years later, cell phones and social media could have transitioned their flirtation into a more genuine connection. But those things had still been just over the horizon.
“I wouldn’t mind playing catch-up. Do you want to down that drink, and we can head to another place? Someplace where your ex isn’t around?” The ridges of his cheeks darkened as he made the offer.
Was he as out of practice at this as she was? Tessa doubted anyone could be as rusty in the dating field as her. She and Max had met in their freshman dorm and dated all through college. They’d married just before she started med school, and he’d gone to work in finance. She’d been off the market for most of her adult life.
“My place is just around the corner. I have wine and a patio that overlooks the community pond.” Heat engulfed her body as she met those sultry eyes again. “I… I… I just meant that it’s a good place for me to dump these shoes. And then you can come back to your sister after a drink on my patio.”
Nope… There was definitely no one rustier than her at this. And she wasn’t even trying to flirt. Well, maybe a little, but not like “invite a stranger back to your condo fifteen minutes after he buys you a club soda.”
He took a sip of his drink, and her breath caught as she watched him mull the offer over. If he said no, it would be fine. Better than fine—it would be the right answer. But Tessa didn’t want Gabe to say no. She wanted him to want her—at least for a night of friendly conversation on a condo porch.
How long had it been since someone outside the hospital wanted to spend time with her? Tessa didn’t want to calculate that answer.
“Sure,” Gabe finally stated. He looked over her shoulder again and smiled. “But just so you know, I’m telling my sister this went perfectly and counting it as a date. That will get her off my back for at least the next three days. Maybe even an entire week!”
Laughter again bubbled in Tessa’s chest. How had he taken the most awkward moment ever and made it seem like she was helping him? And how was this gorgeous man still single?
He grinned, dimples deep in each cheek before heading to speak to his sister.
Another round of laughs echoed from the back corner, but most of its sting had evaporated. She laid another couple of dollars on the bar and spared one more glance at the over-the-top decor, then let her mind wander to Gabe’s delicious dimples. She could get lost in that smile.
Maybe for more than one night.
That thought sent a cold bead of sweat down her back. She was not interested in dating anyone—even if she was more than a little tired of curling up with a pillow each night.
The position for senior emergency room attending was opening in a few weeks. Assuming the rumors were true.
And she’d learned the hard way that men did not appreciate a successful woman. Oh, they claimed to. Max had said he loved Tessa’s drive for success. Asserted that her being so successful made them a power couple—a term Tessa hated.
Then his finance career had stagnated following several poor business decisions and the recession. When he was laid off, Max had grown increasingly agitated by his lack of job prospects. She’d understood, but after he accepted another position, their relationship had still raced toward its explosive end.
Particularly when she’d been offered the senior attending job at Cincinnati Children’s. He’d refused to even consider moving for her job and suggested that it would be too much of a commitment if she wanted to start a family anytime soon.
So she’d stayed. Given up the promotion hoping that her sacrifice could repair the divide that had widened between her and her ex. Instead, he’d filed for divorce, claiming Tessa didn’t need him for anything besides housework.
It had been a BS excuse—particularly considering he’d married again before the ink had dried on their divorce decree. But it was proof that many men couldn’t handle being equal partners in a relationship. They always wanted to be more than their partner. And Tessa didn’t have the time to wade through the dating landscape to figure out the good from the bad.
She licked her lips as she subtly checked out Gabe’s beautiful derriere. If her heart thumped a bit as Gabe leaned over to tell his sister he was going to Tessa’s place for a short while, that was just a symptom of loneliness and nostalgia for an old crush. A one-night escape.