Lockdown might be over in some places, but hasn’t it been a long stretch stuck in our living rooms, unable to go anywhere further than the supermarket?
Thankfully we have books and stories (and puppy dogs – that’s my little Cockapoo fur-baby Ziggy in the photo below. She’s a prized new addition to our household!)
As well as picking up poop and yelling “please don’t eat that” across the kitchen, I’ve been scribbling away at a new story set in the veterinary world. I’ve been so lost in it that I almost forgot I have another book coming out next month! I’m posting a sneaky excerpt from ENTICED BY HER ISLAND BILLIONAIRE below, to tease you into Mila and Dr Sebastian Becker’s world.
She’s an ex Army doc, working out on a remote Indonesian island, assisting Sebastian in his pioneering scar tissue surgery at his exclusive clinic. The thing is, he’s met her before, hasn’t he? Mila is quite sure he hasn’t. Could he really be remembering her dead twin sister?!
I set this book on an Indonesian island because it’s very close to my heart. I was lucky enough to live and work out in Bali for a couple of years in my mid-30s, writing a travel book called Balilicious, so I got to know and love the land, and the people.
In fact, random places and adventurous strangers from my time as a travel writer/author have inspired a lot of my fiction. My first Mills & Boon medical TEMPTED BY HER HOT-SHOT DOC was set in the Amazon, where the Spanish-speaking locals were some of the most gentle, kind souls I’ve ever met… though I had to leave out the week I spent with a shaman drinking hallucinogenic tree sap (aka ayahuasca).
My second, FROM DOCTOR TO DADDY was inspired by the time I was lucky enough to board a cruise ship for 10 days in Australia. While the book is set in the Caribbean, I was able to draw on my experiences on the ship. The staff were very accommodating, especially the amorous chef who chased me round the ship asking for a kiss one night after too many drinks in the bar, (I managed to escape).
The world is a big, big place full of beauty and stories waiting to be told, even if we chop, twist and edit them sometimes. I experienced so many acts of kindness from strangers on my travels, in all corners of the world. There was also the time I got mugged in a back alley in Bogota and had to bribe getting my phone back by buying a bottle of vodka for the perpetrator, but that’s another story… most people are shining stars of humanity.
Maybe I’ll share a few more tales of how travelling, and people of different origins and cultures have inspired me over the years. (If you’d like?) But for now, please do enjoy this little excerpt set in Indonesia….
EXCERPT FROM ENTICED BY HER ISLAND BILLIONAIRE
A rush of air-conditioning blasted Mila’s face as the door swung open to admit Dr Becker. ‘Agung, how’s she doing?’
He was pulling on a coat, arm by long, bulked-up arm, striding towards the bed in black sport’s sandals. He was every bit as striking in a white coat as he was in a wetsuit.
He made to pass her, stopped, placed a hand on her shoulder. ’Thank you for what you just did.’
‘You’re welcome.’ The words came out smoothly, calm like she’d intended, but she didn’t feel calm. The way he was looking at her now had suspicion all over it. He only looked away from her when the anaesthetist entered the room.
‘Put this on,’ he told her now, throwing her a white coat from a hook on the wall. ‘Nurse Viv is with another patient, so I hope you don’t mind staying a bit longer here. I just need you to cut the suit,’ he said, motioning to a pair of scissors on the tray.
Mila snipped carefully at the girl’s wetsuit, and discarded the flimsy material. She was following commands, where she’d usually be giving them but that was OK. She wasn’t a hundred miles from base in Ghazni. No one had been blasted by shrapnel from a rocket propelled grenade, there were no wounded soldiers crying out for attention. There was only this one girl, right here, right now.
She put a gentle hand to Gabby’s leg still and soothed her as the meds kicked in.
Agung’s radio made a sound. ‘Excuse me Doctor Becker, Doctor Mila.’ he said. He left the room and instantly the air grew thicker. Sebastian was appraising her again.
’Mila?’ he said in a surprised voice, as soon as it was only the two of them. He stepped towards her.
‘She looks much better,’ she told him, looking up to see his eyes narrow. ‘I think we got to this bite just in time. She just needs to sleep it off now.’
He folded his arms, towering over her. He must have been at least six foot two inches to her five foot three. ’Why Mila? I thought your name was Annabel?’
All the breath left her body.
’I couldn’t remember at first, back there, it was at least six or seven years ago, right? Before this Clinic, or the MAC existed,’ he said. ‘You were late to our snorkelling party, you’d had too much to drink remember?’ He grinned, laughing at a memory that wasn’t hers.
Tears stung her eyes. She still could have wrestled him to the ground when he reached for her wrists, but his long, tanned fingers ran gently over her scars and she felt bolted to the floor.
He was turning her arms in the harsh overhead light, studying the faint, silvery lines like they were clues to a mystery game. ‘You didn’t have these before,’ he said, frowning. ‘What happened to you?’
She bit her cheeks as the tears threatened to spill over. He’d met Annabel. This must be the same guy her sister had come back talking about, all those years ago. Sebastian. It all made sense now. Doctor Sebastian Becker was Bas. All of this, and she had to work with him?
She had to set him straight, it was unbearable.
‘I’m not… who you think I am,’ she managed. The room felt suddenly way-too-small. She took a step back, pulling her arms away. ’Doctor Becker, I’m Doctor Mila Ricci. I’ve come to work at the MAC for a while and learn your techniques. I would have met you earlier but I missed my transfer, I apologise for the confusion.’
She watched him rake a hand through his hair as she struggled for composure. He paced the room, then stopped. ‘Am I going crazy here? I met you before, didn’t I? Did you change your name?’
‘I’m not Annabel,’ she said through a tight throat. ‘Annabel was my twin sister. She’s dead, Sebastian. She died three years ago. It was her you met, not me.’