It’s that time again, and my new book, Healing Her Emergency Doc, is out now! So excited to see it in print, and even though it’s my 103rd, that excitement never fades.
But before you launch into the little taster below, if you haven’t already read it there’s a fabulous opportunity to snap up my previous book, Tempted by the Single Mom, over on Amazon US for a knockdown price! There’s a link here to an excerpt, too.
The voice was deep, soft, and weirdly familiar. She hadn’t heard it for years, but it still made her heart tumble in her chest.
No. It can’t be…
But her heart was doing a little jig behind her ribs as if it knew better, and she felt suddenly dizzy and light-headed.
Don’t be ridiculous. It’s just low blood sugar. Or interview nerves. And anyway, it won’t be him. Not here…
Slowly, reluctantly, she looked up and met those totally unforgettable slate grey eyes. Eyes that had teased, and laughed, and—just that once—burned for her.
But not now. Right now they looked a little stunned. She knew how that felt.
What’s he doing here?
The interview? No—but why else would he be wearing a suit? And if he was in the running, she was scuppered. He was too good—too convincing, and the interview panel would fall for it, just like they all did. Like she had.
Almost… But she hadn’t made it easy for him.
She’d turned him down over and over again, but he wasn’t a quitter, so it had turned into a game. He’d ask, she’d say no.
It had taken him five years, but at the Leavers’ Ball he’d had one last go, cranked up the charm to full volume, and he’d almost convinced her to go home with him. Almost.
She hadn’t seen him since that night, but just remembering it made her squirm. Awkward wasn’t in it.
Please don’t bring it up.
Surely he wouldn’t, not here. Maybe he wouldn’t. He was smiling at her now, the warm, effortlessly sexy smile that had always made her stomach turn over and her heart beat a little faster. So that hadn’t changed, then.
Why aren’t I over you?
Her breath locked in her throat, and she dredged up what was probably a very unconvincing smile and found her voice at last. ‘Tom. What are you doing here?’
Stupid, inane question.
His mouth quirked, his smile wry now.
‘Do I really need to answer that?’
She rolled her eyes. ‘Probably not.’
He gave a soft huff of laughter, and dropped casually into the seat next to hers, and she shifted slightly away from him, because the scent drifting from his body brought back memories she would rather have forgotten.
‘So, how are you?’ he asked, and she swallowed.
‘I’m OK. Busy.’ At least it wasn’t a lie, although she’d be more OK if she could land this job in the Emergency Department she’d been working in for months, and he’d just messed that up for her. ‘How about you?’
‘Oh, I’m good,’ he said. ‘Busy, of course, like you, but it goes with the territory, I guess. So what have you been up to since uni? Presumably not married with three kids if you’re going after a senior post.’
‘No, no kids, I’m still single. How about you? Did you finally settle down?’ she asked, to shift the conversation away from herself, and then regretted showing the slightest sign of curiosity. Not that she didn’t want to know…
But his mouth tightened into what could barely be called a smile and those incredibly expressive eyes went blank.
‘Oh, you know me, I’m a free spirit,’ he said, his voice light and breezy and oddly unconvincing as he glanced away.
There was a whole world left unsaid, but he clearly didn’t want to discuss it. Because he’d just come out of a messy relationship, too? She could understand that. She didn’t want to talk about hers, either. They were both allowed their privacy, but it must have been pretty bad, because the Tom she knew would never leave London without a very good reason.
‘So, where are you working now?’ he asked, lobbing the ball firmly back into her court, but she wasn’t about to tell him, so she stuck to the bare bones of the truth.
‘Nowhere permanent at the moment. I’ve been doing a bit of locuming for a while.’
He frowned. ‘That doesn’t sound like you. I thought you always wanted security?’
Trust him to get straight to the heart of it. She slapped on a smile and kept her voice deliberately light and airy as he’d done. ‘I do, but I never had a gap year, so why not? But it’s been nearly a year now, so it’s probably time to get back to focusing on my career.’
‘So is that what this is about, this interview? Getting back on track?’
‘Pretty much,’ she said, wondering when being economical with the truth morphed into a lie. ‘Plus I need to earn a living and having a regular income is quite handy like that.’
He chuckled, suddenly looking more like the Tom she remembered, his eyes crinkling at the corners. They’d always done that, and she hated the effect it was having on her. That it had always had on her.
The meeting room door opened and James, the ED clinical lead, ushered the first candidate out and looked round. ‘Thomas Stryker?’
‘Good luck,’ she said mechanically, and he got to his feet.
‘You know you don’t mean that,’ he murmured with a wry smile tugging at his ridiculously beautiful mouth, and turned towards James, the smile widening.
‘Hi. I’m Tom.’
‘James Slater. Come on in, Tom.’
The door to the meeting room closed behind them, and she stared at it, her shoulders slumping in despair.
He’ll get it. He’s bound to. Why didn’t I do more interview prep? For all the difference it’ll make, with him in the running.
That would teach her to take things for granted. She looked at the other two candidates. She might have stood a chance against them, but now…
Now, there was Tom, always smiling, always up for whatever challenge/opportunity/pretty girl/party presented itself. He’d aced his medical degree, presumably sailed through the early years of Foundation training and after another five years was now a prime candidate for the vacant senior SpR post in the ED at Yoxburgh Park Hospital. The role she’d hoped would be hers, the job she’d been told by James Slater to apply for, because it had her name written all over it.
Well, so it might have had, but James hadn’t met Tom then, of course, and Tom had that way of convincing people that they wanted all sorts of things that in their right minds they wouldn’t contemplate—although thankfully her common sense had rescued her from that particular catastrophe.
The door opened again, and her head snapped up. She could hear him laughing, hear the smile in his voice as he thanked them, almost smell the success on him as he walked confidently out of the room and took his seat again beside her.
‘You look happy,’ she said, forcing a smile, and he grinned.
‘Well, I got through to the second round, so I’m not unhappy,’ he said softly, and then studied her searchingly, his brows pleating together. ‘Are you OK?’
‘Of course.’ She looked away before he could read the lie in her eyes. ‘It’s just a little—awkward. It’s the last place I would have expected you to look for a job.’
She could feel him still studying her, his eyes boring through into her brain, trying to read her mind.
‘It’s not that that’s bugging you. It’s us.’
‘There is—was—no us.’
The soft huff of his laugh drifted across her skin, teasing her nerve endings.
‘No, there wasn’t, was there? And you’re still feeling guilty about that,’ he murmured slowly, and she could hear the laughter in his voice.
‘Why should I feel guilty?’ she muttered, and she felt her skin tingle as he laughed again. She could feel him studying her intently, and she had to force herself to sit still.
‘You tell me.’ His voice dropped another notch and the laughter disappeared. ‘Why did you run away?’
Really? Here and now? Because she was so not going into it here.
Saved. Bless James and his timing. She leapt to her feet.
He really didn’t mean it, either. He was only being polite, just as she’d been, but she thanked him anyway and walked towards James, her legs oddly wobbly and James’s smile of encouragement not really working, because he was only part of a panel and they had to go for the best person for the job.
Had to. And it wouldn’t be her. Not in a million years, not with Tom in the line-up, but she wasn’t going down without a fight. No way. If he got this job over her, it was going to be because he’d earned it, not because she’d given it away.
She straightened her spine, pinned on her best game face and walked into the interview with her head held high.