Dr. Lucy Patterson might be back in Bulla Creek on a strictly temporary basis, but she can't refuse chocolate-eyed Dr. Marco Rodriguez's request for help running his clinic! A recent double betrayal has Lucy running scared from relationships, so acting on her feelings for sexy Marco and his adorable disabled son shouldn't be an option. But this gorgeous Argentinean is about to tempt Lucy to walk on the wild side.
For Monica with thanks for giving my eldest son an amazing time in France, and for all her help with Marco's Spanish.
Special thanks to Alan who cheerfully answered my email and gave me a rundown on the intricacies of visas.
Why I Wrote the Book
A few years ago on a warm, April afternoon, I attended a polo match. From the moment I saw those amazing, nuggetty ponies charging up and down the course, I wanted to write a polo match into a book. I've tried three times to do this but sometimes things just don't go according to plan and this was one of them. I had to get cagey! Instead of thinking, "Oh, I'll write a polo scene" I had to make polo part of the book.
One can't think of Polo without thinking of Nacho Figueras, the totally gorgeous Argentine Polo player. Never heard of him? Let me educate you ;-) He is the face of Ralph Lauren's Black Label.
With images of this man in my head I created Marco, an Argentine, polo-playing doctor who is living in Australia because it is a long way from memories in Argentina he is trying to out-run. He's carving out a new life for himself and his special-needs son in outback Western Australia. Getting up each morning, facing the day and getting through to the end is his daily goal. He's barely managing that so he's not interested in trying to add a relationship into the mix.
Lucy Patterson grew up in Bulla Creek, the much-loved only child of the local doctor. In keeping with family tradition, Lucy became a doctor and had plans to join her father until her mother died and her world was turned upside down. After many months in Perth, duty calls her back and her plan is stay as short a time as possible.
However, like so many things in life, neither of them has a lot of control over what happens and suddenly their lives are intertwined in ways they'd never imagined.
Letting Go With Dr. Rodriguez
Excerpt From Chapter One
Dr Lucy Patterson heard the call and with a smile, she thrust her hand against the fast-closing elevator doors at Perth City Hospital. They bounced open.
A moment later, Daniel Edgerton, radiographer and her boyfriend, strode over the silver threshold. 'Thanks.' His smile for her wasn't quite as broad as it had been in the past, but if he was as weary as she was, she totally understood.
He slapped the large 'G' button with the heel of his hand. 'You finishing up for the day?'
She bit her lip, knowing he wasn't going to be thrilled with her reply. 'Not quite. I have to admit a late addition to the Prof's surgical list and re-site an IV.'
His sigh reverberated around the boxed space, settling over her with cloying disapproval. He worked a roster with a definite start and end time, and he didn't always understand that her day finished when the work was finally complete. With forced brightness and a wide smile, she quickly added, 'But then I'll be done and yours for the night.'
Daniel opened his mouth but an ominous grinding sound drowned out his reply and the smooth descent of the elevator suddenly jerked, throwing Lucy sideways.
She gripped the support rail and righted herself. 'Please, no, not again. I got stuck here last week for twenty minutes.'
'It's not a total disaster.' Daniel reached his arm around her waist, pulling her in close and nuzzling her neck as he ran his hand up her back, his fingers reaching for her bra strap. 'We can do a lot with twenty minutes.'
She laughed, but splayed her fingers against his chest, leaning back and putting some distance between them. 'True, but I'm not risking my senior registrar's application by being caught 'in flagrante' in an elevator.'
His blue eyes hardened as he dropped his arms to his sides. 'Jess didn't have a problem with it.'
She blinked at him in surprise. Jess was her house-mate of four years and they got along well, sharing not only a house but gossip, clothes and after a tough day, a glass of wine. 'There's no way Jess would have sex in an elevator.'
He shrugged- the action a total disregard of her reply. 'There's every way and she did.'
A jab of indignation caught Lucy under the ribs and she crossed her arms. 'If Jess had sex in an elevator she'd have told me.'
Daniel's brows rose as his mouth flattened. 'She doesn't have to tell you everything, Luce and let's face it, just lately you've hardly been around.'
Lucy stifled a flicker of unease that Jess may have confided in Dan rather than her. 'Why are you so certain she did?'
This time Daniel crossed his arms. 'Because I was there.'
'You were there?' Confusion drove the words across her lips and for the briefest moment she thought Daniel meant he'd walked in on Jess and her lover when the elevator doors had opened. Suddenly, her sluggish brain decoded his body language- stiff and defiant- and a chill raced through her so hard and fast that she trembled. 'You had sex with Jess?' Her voice rose and cracked. 'Here?'
He met her shocked gaze with a combative glare. 'Yeah.'
Her friend. Her hand flew to her mouth as nausea spun her stomach and threatened to return the chocolate muffin she'd just eaten. Stepping back, she flattened herself against the wall and tried to put as much distance between them as possible. 'When?'
Dan sucked in his lips and finally said, 'Last week.'
She thought back to the sex they'd had last Wednesday after she'd cooked his favourite dinner- the night she'd been the one making all the moves. At the time it had surprised her because usually Dan initiated sex, but it hadn't taken long before he'd got on board. Her stomach pitched again. Desperately trying to keep her composure, she spoke softly but with an edge of steel. 'When last week?'
For the first time, he dropped his gaze. 'It doesn't matter.'
She gripped the support rail as her knees turned to jelly. 'Yes, it bloody matters.'
He ran his hand over his short-cropped hair. 'Look, Luce, there's no point-'
'Tell me!' She heard her tears in the shout as she lost the battle to hold herself together.
It was as if the cable of the elevator snapped right there and then, releasing the silver box into free-fall. Only it was her life that was tumbling and crashing down around her, and taking all the supporting pillars with it. Pillars she'd barely shored up after they'd spectacularly collapsed in on her six months ago making her question everything she'd ever believed in. Every part of her was numb- her lungs refused to move and tears blurred her eyes. How could this be happening? Why now when everything else in her life, including her career was so unsettled? A shot of righteous anger suddenly pierced through the numbness giving rise to blessed pain. 'You bastard.'
His head snapped up. 'Oh, that's rich. I'm the bastard, but you've been the one who's been closed off for months. You might be standing next to me, but you're never really here. Jess at least understands me. Jess gives me something. You've given me nothing for way too long, Lucy.'
Her anger swelled, propelled by a hammering heart and utter devastation. 'You're not just a bastard, Dan, you're a selfish bastard. You know what's been going on with me and Da-' She stopped herself, not able to finish that particular word. She swallowed and pushed on. 'With William. You know what I've been going through, but that doesn't count for anything does it? Nothing matters if it's not all about you.'
His mouth tightened giving his boyish face a hard edge. 'It's been all about you for months, Luce and I've had enough.'
She'd known in her heart things weren't good between them, but she'd never expected such a bitter betrayal. 'Then why didn't you just leave? Why take my friend with you?'
A light came into his eyes. 'I think I love her.'
The simple words plunged into her heart making her double up in pain. Words he'd never voiced to her in all their time together. Her chest rose and fell way too fast and she put her hands around her mouth so she didn't hyperventilate.
Daniel slammed his hands against the 'door open' button. 'Come on.' He hit every other button too, wanting out of this box of torrid emotions as much as she did.
A whirring noise sounded, followed by the elevator moving slowly down. Finally the doors opened with a ping and Daniel muttered, 'Thank, God' before stepping out and walking away without a backwards glance.
The doors slid shut and Lucy sank to the floor, closing her eyes. Even in her darkest moments she'd never imagined she would have been part of the conversation that had just taken place. She lurched from one memory to another, searching for clues, hints- anything at all that might have prepared her for Daniel's bombshell. Things had been strained, but there'd been no hint of him and Jess.
None that you noticed. But then again, you haven't noticed much lately, have you?
Her head pounded and resentment burned through her. She felt her smart-phone vibrate and she pulled it out of the deep pocket in her white coat, expecting a message from the ward asking where she was and how much longer she'd be, because her patient was overdue for IV antibiotics. The message wasn't from the ward, but an email from an unfamiliar name.
She squinted through her headache to make the words come into focus.
As you know, your father, Dr William Patterson has fractured his tibia. He is not a man to ask for help so I, as his doctor and the second medical practitioner in Bulla Creek, am asking for you to visit at your earliest convenience. Marco Rodriguez (Dr)
She stared at the email, reading it three times before the words finally sank in. Fractured tibia? She bit her lip as guilt spun around worry. Of course she didn't know about William's leg. She hadn't communicated with him in months and the emails he'd sent had dealt only with the information she'd requested. None had mentioned his health. Nor had he mentioned a doctor with a Spanish name and a formal writing style, which indicated that English wasn't his native language. What was a Spaniard doing in outback Bulla Creek?
At your earliest convenience. She instinctively shook her head and then, from the tangled mess that was currently her life, she stared up at the ceiling of the elevator absolutely certain about one thing. No way was she going back to Bulla Creek.
You mean home.
'No, I mean Bulla Creek.' Her emphatic voice sounded strident in the confines of the otherwise empty elevator.
Right, so you're ignoring duty, staying in Perth where your boyfriend's just dumped you, and your best friend who you also share a house with has utterly betrayed you. That's gonna be cosy. Kinda makes Bulla Creek almost attractive, doesn't it.
Lucy dropped her head in her hands and wished she could wind back the clock one year- back to a time when she knew who she was, knew where she belonged and where she was headed. Instead she now faced a road that stretched way out in front of her that was filled with a pea-soup fog.Every part of her railed against the idea of going back to Bulla Creek, but the news about William tore at the box she'd shoved all her feelings about him into- feelings she didn't want to revisit. They came back anyway in unsettling waves. No matter what had happened between them and no matter how much she didn't want to see him, she couldn't just ignore the fact he'd broken his leg. Not at his age. The doctor in her knew that only too well. Acknowledging it smoothed out her tangled thoughts.
'I'll take some annual leave, fly up to Bulla Creek for a quick visit and check that William's receiving the correct medical care. Then I'll come back here, find a new place to live and sort out the rest of my life which won't include disloyal friends and cheating, bastard men.'
You do realise there isn't anyone here listening to you except me and I don't need to hear you talk to know exactly what you're thinking.
'Shut-up.' The yell propelled Lucy to her feet and she brushed down her white coat. Her life was in tatters, but at least she had a plan. One she was clinging to like a floating log in a choppy sea.
The red dust of Bulla Creek was covered in a layer of green, courtesy of a record-setting wet winter followed by a sunny spring. The sheep wore thick fleeces, lambs gambolled on fat legs and the farmers smiled, which was almost as uncommon as the weather. Dr Marco Rodriguez returned a farmer's hat tip and grin as he strode down the main street toward the Bulla Creek Medical Centre. It wasn't the first time he'd reflected on the fact that in general, farmers in Western Australia shared a taciturn approach to life that was very similar to the farmers of his homeland of Argentina. Life on the land was tough and a good season was cause for celebration.
He turned left at the rust and sand coloured church which stood diagonally opposite the pub. Both buildings had been built over a hundred years ago from local rocks quarried when veins of lead in the nearby hills guaranteed prosperity. Bulla Creek today was not as affluent as it was back then, but the legacy of heritage buildings not only reminded residents of a its wealthy past, but more importantly it brought in tourists with money to spend. People paid a lot to step back in time and spend a weekend or longer imagining simpler times.
Marco knew it was just an illusion. There'd been nothing simple about living without running water and basic hygiene in a time when a broken leg often resulted in amputation, where the birth of a child could easily take the life of a mother and a secondary infection after a common cold could kill. Even today, childbirth had its risks and he was far too intimate with the dangers.
Pulling open the door of the modern medical clinic which also fronted a small hospital annexe of five acute-care beds and ten nursing-home beds, he walked into a packed waiting room. Just as he'd done every day for the last few weeks since his medical partner had fallen ill. He was worried about William who'd been adamant he didn't want his daughter told about his accident, although when he spoke of her his eyes lit up before sadness filled them.
William was not his usual, upbeat self and he was taking longer to return to work than expected. With the death of his wife earlier in the year and now the fracture, Marco believed he needed cheering up. He pressed down on the ripple of unease that had been trickling through him ever since he'd over-ridden the other doctor's request and written to William's daughter. He'd needed to do something because he really believed William needed time with family so he could re-find his spark. With one doctor down, Marco's days ran together in a long blur of work with snatches of fatherhood wedged in between. This wasn't what he'd envisaged when he'd made the decision to come to Bulla Creek. It was supposed to have meant more time for Ignacio, not less. He needed William back at work yesterday.
He swallowed a sigh and mustered up a smile for his waiting patients because his problems were not theirs and they deserved his complete attention. 'Buenos días. Good morning, everyone. I am at your service in just a few moments.'
From "Letting Go With Dr. Rodriguez" by Fiona Lowe
Mills and Boon Medical Romance July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-373-06841-8 Copyright: © 2012 Fiona Lowe
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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