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Unlocking the surgeons h.., p.13

Unlocking the Surgeon's Heart, page 13

 

Unlocking the Surgeon's Heart
 


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  However, when she pressed him for details, he simply smiled, which made her wonder if she’d talked in her sleep.

  It was probably best if she didn’t know what she’d said while her defenses had been down because she’d never be able to face him again.

  “I wonder if he’s seeing someone,” Rose said thoughtfully.

  The idea gave her a moment’s pause, but unless he carved out time in his already busy days, she couldn’t conceive how it might be possible. Although she wasn’t trying to keep him from his lady friend, she was, however, pleased that he’d devoted his evenings to her and the children.

  “Could be,” she said in a noncommittal tone.

  Rose’s dark eyes grew speculative. “Aren’t the two of you looking after his brother’s family while they’re out of the country?”

  “Yes.”

  “How’s that working out?”

  Christy was nothing if not circumspect. “Fine. You know how it is with kids, there’s hardly time to breathe.”

  Once again, Rose glanced in the direction he’d disappeared. “If a love interest hasn’t lightened his mood, then being around you must have done the trick.”

  Linc had spent far more time at home than she’d initially expected. While he still had definite ideas about how and when things should be done, he’d also been more willing to compromise than she’d dreamed possible.

  “Unless…” Rose stared at Christy thoughtfully “…you two are having a romance.”

  Christy fought the warmth spreading up her neck and into her face. “Don’t be ridiculous. He’s just getting into the spirit of the hospital fundraiser,” she prevaricated. “Have you bought your tickets yet?”

  “I have. Dean and I are looking forward to a night out.” She grinned. “Even if we have to spend it with the same people we work with.”

  “Oh, the sacrifices one must make.”

  “Where are you going on your vacation this year?” Rose asked. “Let me guess. You’re running the bulls.”

  Christy laughed. “Sorry, that’s in July and I’ve missed it for this year.”

  “Maybe you can do one of those Ironman events.”

  “I’m not in shape for it.”

  “You’re not in shape for what?” Linc’s voice interrupted.

  “An Ironman event,” Christy explained. “You know—those endurance events that involve swimming, biking, and a marathon run.”

  “We were discussing ideas for her annual adventure,” Rose added helpfully. “She’s already missed running with the bulls, but I suppose she could always do something wild like climbing Mount Everest.”

  “Sorry,” Christy answered cheerfully, noting how Linc had suddenly tensed. “Too cold.”

  Rose turned to Linc. “Do you have any suggestions for her, Doctor?”

  A predatory gleam appeared in his eyes as he met Christy’s gaze and the heat she saw caused all her nerve endings to tingle.

  “Not off the top of my head,” he said. “But I’ll give the subject some thought.”

  Hearing that Christy was looking for a new adventure activated a fiercely protective streak he hadn’t noticed before. He didn’t want her choosing a dangerous pastime and he certainly didn’t want her getting her thrills in the company of some other guy, no matter how innocent the circumstances might be.

  As for suggesting an exciting activity, he had an idea and it had driven him to the weight bench on several occasions. It involved the two of them, alone on a deserted island and surrounded only by the sun, sand, and the sea. Unfortunately, the rest of his mental picture wasn’t suitable to mention to a relative stranger and he was certain Christy wasn’t ready to hear it either.

  Some things a man had to keep to himself until the proper moment.

  However, he’d planned an adventure of another sort for this very evening—Christy didn’t know about it, yet—and he spent most of his afternoon keeping close tabs on the clock. If his office staff thought he was unusually eager to leave, they were too polite to comment.

  At six forty-five, after promising Derek and Emma that he’d make up for missing their bedtime story, Linc promptly ushered Christy into his car. Tonight was their first private dance lesson and he couldn’t decide if he was dreading the experience or looking forward to it. He hoped the instructor would be as good as his billing because he didn’t want to disappoint Christy with his two left feet.

  He passed the street leading to her apartment, then turned in the opposite direction from his house when she spoke.

  “Linc,” she said carefully, “I thought we were going to practice a dance routine.”

  “We are.”

  “Then where are we going?”

  He made a right turn. “I’ve scheduled private lessons for us at the You Can Dance studio.”

  Her jaw visibly dropped. “However did you manage that? They’re booked for weeks in advance and that’s just for a group lesson. I can’t imagine what one would have to do for a private session.”

  “Yeah, well.” He shrugged. “It’s who you know. In my case, one of my patients is a relative and he put in a good word for me.”

  “I should be angry with you,” she said without heat. “First you announce at dinner that your housekeeper will come by every week and now you’ve arranged for private dance lessons? What’s next? A caterer?”

  He chuckled at her obvious frustration. “Catering is definitely out, but we have a dance routine to perfect,” he reminded her, “and that won’t happen overnight. So, to be sure we have time to devote, it only makes sense for Paullina to take on a few of our housekeeping chores. It isn’t a reflection on you, I swear.”

  She fell silent and he hoped she was weighing the benefits and not preparing to present new arguments. “Okay,” she conceded, “but the minute we don’t need her—”

  Gail and Ty would be home. However, he didn’t want to mention, or think about, the day when their familial interlude would end. In the meantime, whether he turned into an overnight dance sensation or not, he intended to practice his steps with Christy as often as possible until he had another legitimate reason—one she would accept—to hold her in his arms.

  “She’ll be gone. I promise.” He parked in a space in front of the studio’s entrance. “Shall we see what Mario and Carmen can do for us?”

  Mario and Carmen were a Cuban husband-and-wife team in their mid-thirties and they greeted them with wide smiles.

  “What would you like to dance for your competition?” Mario asked in his distinctive Spanish accent.

  Linc shared a glance with Christy. “We’re open to suggestions.”

  “Then we will show you various types of dance and you can choose which one speaks to you.”

  As the couple demonstrated everything from the tango to mambo, the Viennese waltz to a foxtrot, with a fluidity that Linc envied, he began to wonder what he’d gotten himself into. Christy obviously sensed his concern, because she’d threaded her arm through his in a most comforting manner.

  Halfway through the session, Carmen started the music for “The Time of My Life”. As he watched the pair perform the steps Patrick Swayze had made famous, he knew what he wanted. The sparkle in Christy’s eyes and her tight grip on his arm suggested she agreed.

  “A good choice,” Mario said when Linc announced their decision. “I’m afraid some of the steps might be too much for you to learn in such a short time. The lift, for instance.”

  “Then modify it for us,” Linc said, “because that, or something similar, is what we want.”

  Mario grinned. “Ah, I like to see determination. That is good because you must work hard. We will meet only twice a week, but you will practice every day.”

  Linc had anticipated the order and was looking forward to it. “We will.”

  The lessons b
egan. Ten minutes into the session, Mario pulled him aside.

  “You are trying too hard, amigo. You wish to impress the lady, no?”

  Frustrated by his missteps that made it difficult for Christy to follow, Linc rubbed his face with both hands. “Am I that obvious?”

  “Only to me,” Mario assured him. “Don’t think about what you’re feet are doing. This is a song of love between you and your partner and has nothing to do with people out there.” He swept out his arm toward an imaginary audience. “As you express your feelings, you will relax and move with the confidence of a man who has a prize that many others want but cannot have.”

  He recognized the truth in his instructor’s comments, but he hadn’t earned the prize either.

  Mario must have seen something on Linc’s face because he smiled. “Ah, so that’s how it is. You are not certain you’ve won.”

  Linc shrugged sheepishly. “No.”

  “But you are here and they are not, so that gives you an advantage, does it not?” He paused. “She is a beautiful woman.”

  Linc didn’t hesitate. “She is.”

  Mario winked. “And do you not think so many men will be envious of you?”

  He grinned. “Probably.”

  “Then be confident that for this moment she is yours and only yours. When you move securely in that knowledge, your feet will go where they need to and she will follow.”

  Yours and only yours.

  He liked the sound of that. Furthermore, he suddenly realized that he wanted far more than only a moment. He didn’t know how or when it had happened, but he wanted weeks, months, and years with her. He also wanted the clock to begin now, not later after her check-up.

  “Shall we try again?” Mario asked.

  He drew a bracing breath. “Okay. Let’s do this.”

  The instructor clapped his hands. “Good. Then we begin.”

  By the end of the session Linc was exhausted and he was certain Christy’s head was spinning from all the turns they’d practiced, but as soon as he’d put Mario’s advice into play, he’d felt himself become more sure-footed.

  Mario pulled him aside as they were leaving. “Well done. I can see your confidence growing, no? Perhaps when you return you will be the teacher and I will be the student?”

  Linc laughed. “I appreciate the thought, but that would take a miracle.”

  Mario smiled, his teeth white in his tanned face. “Stranger things have happened, no? Now, go home and practice. We will see your progress at the next session.”

  * * *

  “Linc,” Christy cried three nights later as she collapsed on the sofa after another set of spins. “No more. Please.”

  Linc grinned. “You aren’t wimping out on me now, are you? What happened to the woman who’s looking for an adventure?”

  “She’s tired and if she turns one more time, she’s going to do something horrible, like deposit her dinner on your feet.” She rubbed her midsection in an effort to calm her stomach.

  He sank onto the cushions beside her. “Poor baby. I have been working you hard, haven’t I?”

  “To put it mildly. You haven’t forgotten this is just a friendly competition, have you?”

  “No, but anything worth doing…”

  “Is worth doing well.” She finished his saying because if she’d heard it once, she’d heard it a hundred times. “Now I understand how you became such a brilliant surgeon. You give new meaning to the word ‘single-minded.’”

  “Thanks. I think.”

  “You’re welcome. The good news is that Mario and Carmen should be pleased when we see them tomorrow night.”

  “They certainly should be,” he said, sounding pleased with himself. “We’re positively awesome.”

  She had to admit, they were. Of course, Mario and Carmen had only assigned them a few steps to perfect, but they had learned those well. While she’d always had a good sense of rhythm, Linc had completely surprised her. He moved so naturally to the music, she couldn’t believe she’d ever thought him stilted and straitlaced.

  “You never did say why Mario pulled you aside,” she said, curious.

  “He gave me a pep talk. He said I was trying too hard.”

  “You were.” She’d seen him struggling and she’d found his determination endearing. She’d also been tempted to suggest they try something less complicated, but Carmen had stopped her.

  “Men are simple creatures,” she’d said. “They give gifts to the ones they care about. He wants to do this for you, so you must not deny him the chance.”

  Now, three days later, the notion that he might care about her made her smile with delight. On the other hand, when she wasn’t reveling in those female feelings, she was having a panic attack. She didn’t want to fall in love with him, even though she feared she’d already marched halfway down that path.

  Besides, Carmen must have misread Linc’s signals because someone else had already captured his eye. If Linc seemed determined to master this particular dance, proving that he could was his only motivation.

  She pinched her thumb and forefinger together. “By then, I was this close to suggesting we stick to a simple waltz.”

  “Won’t happen,” he said firmly. “I’d already made up my mind.”

  Once he’d reached a decision, she knew nothing short of an act of God would convince him to change his mind. “What exactly did Mario say to get you to relax?”

  “That I’d be the envy of every man watching, so I might as well enjoy myself. Those weren’t his exact words, but they’re close.”

  Certainly the women in the audience would feel the same about her, she thought. It was inevitable as she would have the most handsome man in the hospital at her side.

  “By the end of the evening, you’ll be on every single woman’s radar,” she said lightly.

  “Won’t matter,” he said firmly. “There’s only one on mine.”

  She ignored the instant pain she felt. “When are you going to ask out this paragon of virtue?”

  “Soon.”

  “How soon?”

  “You seem awfully concerned about my dating habits.”

  “Only because I don’t want to stand in the way of true love,” she quipped. “Derek and Emma have been invited to a sleepover on Friday night. Why don’t you taking her out then? With the kids gone, I wouldn’t slap a curfew on you.”

  He laughed. “Good idea. I could arrange a date.” He paused. “What will you do?”

  She didn’t want to think about the long hours she’d face in her apartment, but whether he brought his date here or to his own house, she definitely wouldn’t stick around to meet her.

  “Girl things,” she answered promptly, thinking she was overdue for a facial and a long bubble bath complete with candles, soft music, and a romance novel.

  “I see. Then I’ll plan my evening.”

  “Yes, do.” She pasted a smile on her face, painfully aware of unreasonable jealousy gripping her soul.

  * * *

  Christy touched the homemade beer-and-cucumber mask she’d applied to her face and decided it was time to wash off the residue. As Friday night activities went, indulging in a facial wasn’t high on the excitement meter, but her pores said it was long overdue. Although her great-grandmother’s recipe probably didn’t have any real scientific basis for giving a peaches-and-cream complexion, knowing she was one of a long line of women in her family to engage in the ritual was comforting.

  Tonight, more than ever, she needed to feel as if she weren’t alone.

  Puréeing the cucumbers and blending in the other ingredients had also given her something to concentrate on other than Linc’s date.

  Ever since she’d dropped off the children at their friends’ house—fortunately Derek and Emma’s buddie
s were a brother and sister—her thoughts had drifted in a most fruitless direction. It was too easy to create a mental minute-by-minute scenario of Linc’s evening.

  He should spend time with the woman who’d caught his eye, she told herself fiercely. She should be happy because he’d finally realized his work was a cold-hearted mistress and was seeking one of flesh and blood. If she’d convinced him to stop postponing his plans for his personal life, then she should pride herself for nudging him along.

  Vowing to find a constructive activity, she’d tried to read two different books, but neither held her interest.

  She’d lounged on her postage-stamp-sized balcony to enjoy the fall weather and the last few rays of direct sunlight in the quietness, but even nature conspired against her. Birds called to their mates, crickets answered each other’s chirps, and the distant sound of children laughing only emphasized her loneliness.

  She’d also considered whipping up a batch of cookies, but couldn’t because her cupboards were literally bare. Although running into Linc and his date at the grocery store was highly unlikely, she didn’t want to risk it.

  For a woman who didn’t want romance, who was positive she hadn’t found a man strong enough to cope with her uncertain future, she was acting completely ridiculously.

  She shook off her gloom with great force of will and planned the rest of the evening. As soon as she finished her beauty treatment and slipped on her running shoes, she would take Ria for a romp around the park. By the time they came home, she’d be too tired to imagine what Linc might or might not be doing.

  Not knowing was part of her problem, she decided with some irritation. She’d pressed him for details about his prospective girlfriend and his itinerary, aware that asking was similar to probing a sore tooth, but he’d been remarkably uncommunicative.

  “I’ll leave it up to her,” had been his reply, so she’d finally held her questions. Yet she hadn’t stopped wondering…

 
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