posted on January 6, 2011 by Catherine Mann
“Rich, Rugged and Royal” Book 3
HIS HEIR, HER HONOR
By Catherine Mann
“Cover the family jewels, gentlemen,” Lilah Anderson called into the men’s locker room at St. Mary’s Hospital. “Female coming through.”
High heels clicking on tile, Lilah charged past a male nurse yanking on scrubs and an anesthesiologist wrestling with a too small towel, barely registering the flash of male flank here, masculine chest there. Smothered coughs and chuckles echoed around her in the steamy tiled area, but she remained undeterred.
Completely focused on locating him.
No one dared stop her on her way past benches and lockers. As chief administrator of Tacoma’s leading surgical facility, she could have any of them fired faster than someone could say “Who dropped the soap?”
Her only problem? A particularly stubborn employee seemed determined to avoid her every attempt to speak with him over the past couple of weeks. Therefore, she’d chosen the one place she could be certain of having Dr. Carlos Medina’s complete attention – a public shower.
The stall tactics would end here and now. And speaking of stalls…
Lilah stepped deeper into the swell of steam puffing around a cream colored plastic curtain. His secretary, Wanda, had warned that he couldn’t be reached since he was washing up after a lengthy surgery. He would be exhausted and cranky.
Not deterred in the least, Lilah saw this as the perfect opportunity she’d been seeking to corner him. She’d grown up with two brothers, and she would have been left out of everything if she didn’t occasionally invade their male inner sanctums. She eyed the line of showers.
Three of the five were in use. The first sported a shadowy, short and round male figure. Not Carlos.
From the second, a balding head peeked around the industrial curtain with shocked green eyes. Also not her surgeon in question.
She nodded to the head of pediatrics. “Good afternoon, Jim.”
Jim ducked back into his stall, which left her to focus on the third tiled cubicle. She marched forward, heels tapping almost as fast as her heart.
Stopping, she planted her feet and checked first. Through the plastic folds, she studied the lean outline standing under the spray, scrubbing his hands over his head. Without even pulling aside the curtain, she knew that body well, intimately so.
She’d found him, Carlos Medina – doctor, lover and as if the guy didn’t already have enough going for him, he was also the eldest son of a former European monarch. His princely pedigree, however, didn’t impress her. Long before she knew about his royal roots, she’d been drawn to his brilliance, his compassion for his patients…
And a backside that looked damn fine in scrubs. Or wearing nothing at all. Definitely not what she needed to think about right now.
Lilah gathered her nerve as firmly as she clenched the curtain and swept it aside, metal rings clink, clink, clinking along the rod.
A wall of steam rolled out, momentarily clouding her vision until the mist dispersed and exposed an eyeful of mouth wateringly magnificent man. Water sluiced down Carlos’s naked body turned sideways, revealing long lean muscles flexing and bunching. And heaven help her, she had a perfect view of the curve of his taut butt.
Beads of moisture clung to his bronzed skin, arms and legs sprinkled with dark hair. No tan lines marked him since he spent most of his time indoors either in surgery or asleep. But his natural olive coloring gave him an all over tanned look, as if he’d bared himself unabashedly to the sun.
Turning his head toward her in a slow, deliberate move, not even a whisper of surprise showed on Carlos’s face. His eyes shone nearly black… heavy lidded… darkly enigmatic. She couldn’t suppress a shiver of desire as his intense gaze held hers. Her stomach knotted with a traitorous ache that could only serve to distract her from her mission today.
He raised one thick eyebrow, slashing upward into his forehead. “Yes?”
His subtle Spanish accent saturated the lone syllable like the steam in the air, so hot she felt the urge to ditch the jacket on her power suit.
In the next stall, water shut off in a hurry as the head of pediatrics made a hasty departure from the locker room. Others lingered, backs studiously turned as they retrieved clothing.
Lilah tugged her jacket more firmly in place. “I need to talk to you.”
“A telephone conversation would have saved my coworkers some embarrassment.” He spoke softly as always, never raising his voice as if he knew innately that people would hang on his every word.
“What I have to say isn’t for an impersonal call.” And wasn’t that the understatement of the year? What she needed to tell him also wasn’t for the curious ears behind her, but she would have Carlos alone soon.
Static-like awareness popped along her nerves until the hair on her arms rose. And was that an answering spark lighting his dark eyes? Then he blinked away any hint of emotion.
“It does not get much more personal than this, boss lady.” He turned off the shower. “Could you pass me that towel?”
She snagged the white cotton draped on a hook, hospital name and logo stamped along the bottom. She pitched the towel to him rather than risk an accidental touch. As he looped it around his waist, she couldn’t resist staring for a stolen second.
Water soaked his hair even blacker, shiny and swept back from his face. Every hard and hunky angle of his aristocratic cheekbones and nose was revealed. Dark brows slashed just over brown eyes that rarely carried humor, but turned lava lush when he made love to her.
Pivoting, his back to her for the first time, he snagged his shampoo. Her eyes quickly left his slim hips and taut butt, drawn more to the scars along his lower back. In the four years she’d known him, he’d chalked up his permanent limp to a teenage riding accident. The one time she’d pressed him further, the first time she’d seen those scars, he’d brushed aside further questions with distracting kisses along her bare skin.
While she was a lawyer and not a doctor, her tenure working at the hospital – and flat out common sense – clued her in that he’d suffered a major physical trauma.
Toiletries bag tucked under his arm, he leaned toward her. His shoulders, then his eyes, drew her in until the rest of the space faded away. She swallowed hard.
He stared back, unblinking, unflinching. “Let’s make this quick.”
“Your charm never ceases to impress me.”
“If you’re looking for charm, you hired the wrong man four years ago.” He’d been thirty-six then to her thirty-one, a lifetime ago. “I’ve spent most of the day repairing the spine of a seven year old Afghani girl injured by a roadside bomb. I’m beat.”
Unwanted sympathy whispered through her. Of course he was exhausted from the drawn out, tragic surgery. Even when he caved to his pride and used a chair during extended operations, the toll it took on him was always evident. But she couldn’t afford to weaken now.
They’d been friends for years only to have him turn into a cold jackass because of an impulsive one night stand together after a Christmas fundraiser. It wasn’t like she’d dropped a wedding planner in his lap five seconds after the third orgasm waned.
Yep, three. Her toes curled inside her pumps at just the memory of each shimmering release.
The sex had been amazing. Beyond amazing actually, and after that impulsive hook-up, she’d envisioned them transitioning into a relationship of friends with kick-ass benefits. A nerve tingling, safe option. But he’d pulled away as fast as he’d pulled on his pants the next morning. He was cold, withdrawn and painfully polite.
But she wasn’t backing down. “I don’t have the time for niceties. I’m just here to say my piece. So grab some clothes and let’s talk.”
He ducked his head until his voice heated her ear. “You’re not the type to create a scene. Let’s set up a time to talk when you’re calmer. This is already awkward enough.”
Her nose twitched at his fresh washed scent. Yes, she’d chosen an unconventional route for her confrontation, but Carlos Medina’s tenacious – stubborn – reputation was legendary. She felt confident the hospital board would cut her a little slack for her scene. And if they didn’t? Then so be it. Sometimes a woman had to make a stand.
This was her time. She couldn’t afford to wait much longer.
“I’m not setting up an appointment. I’m not delaying this conversation.” She lowered her voice, although after from the sound of retreating footsteps behind her there must not be many people left. “We talk. Today. The only matter up for discussion is whether we chat right here in front of everyone or if we speak in an office. And believe me, if we stay here, it’s going to get a lot more awkward very quickly…”