Excerpt:

What would she call him? Doctor Beauchamp or Count de Marancourt? Maybe simply Olivier? Meredith Spaulding snorted. She had secretly called him mon amour for a whole year. The first French words she’d wanted to learn before she woke up to the cold reality—dreams never came true, at least not in her lonely life.
“This way, Dr. Spaulding.” The middle-aged nurse motioned her to follow through a maze of corridors. “Please, note the signs as we go by. Our hospital, L’ Hôpital de la Santé, is so big, one of the largest in France.” The nurse raised her head with pride.
Probably the oldest too. Meredith registered the fissures in the walls and the uneven tiles on the floor. As they reached a double door marked Operations, she swallowed, fingering the strap of her purse. This was the place where Olivier spent his days and often his nights. A place where she would face a new kind of challenge when she started sharing his busy schedule to train with the best surgeon while keeping her heart locked to his charismatic charm. Meredith fiddled with the clean scrubs in her hand, suddenly impatient to start her assignment. Her career was her only anchor now, a safe haven from emotional bruises and heartaches.
“The salle d’operation is through there.” The woman pointed to an exit on the other side of the room. Meredith changed into the scrubs, tucked her hair under a cap, and stood at the sink, scrubbing, her eyes fixed on the door of the surgical prep room she expected to burst open any time. Would he come to scrub next to her or was he already in the OR?
She bit her thumb nail and immediately pulled it out of her mouth. Cripes, she’d just scrubbed. Stifling a curse, she reached for a new kit and redid her washing. Would he kiss her three times the way he kissed the pretty nurses in Boston? Maybe he’d bow and brush the back of her hand with his luscious mouth as she’d seen him greet Dr. Burke, the pathology specialist he’d taken out to dinner.
Who cared? She wasn’t about to succumb to his charms again. Her advisor at Harvard had insisted Dr. Beauchamp offered his exchanged residents more hands-on experience than she’d ever find in any other hospital. She only wanted to share his technical expertise, and maybe…maybe prove to herself she didn’t give a fig about him anymore. Be honest. That was the secret reason that had compelled you to study his program and give it preference.
Meredith tortured her bottom lip. More importantly, would he recognize her?
When she felt a stream of water trickling down her thigh, she jerked back and patted her pants. Wet?
Cripes, she’d forgotten the faucet was on. It had flooded the countertop around the sink. A lousy way for a Harvard med school graduate to make a good impression. She opened the cabinet underneath the sink and searched for a big towel to dry the pond she’d created.
“On peut vous aider?”
Meredith jumped back at the sound of the baritone voice addressing her posterior and bumped her head. “Huh-oh. No.” This wasn’t her ideal scenario for her professional reunion with Olivier.
“Can I help you?” he translated after hearing her accent.
“It’s okay.” Without turning toward him, she straightened and mopped the countertop with a vengeance, her hands shaking.
“Are you one of my exchange residents?” She cringed at the laughing voice. Her heart beating like an out-of-control drum, she nodded. How could she face her new boss now? She dipped her head lower, wanting to drown in the pond. Too late. She’d already dried up every drop of water.
“You can stop shining the Formica.”
Her cheeks heating up, she heard his chuckle and felt his imposing presence just behind her stiffened back. She looked at her hands and realized she’d touched the cabinets. With a sigh of exasperation, she scrubbed for the third time. Determined not to contaminate them again before surgery, she held her forearms up, hands open. Why did she have to mess up their first meeting after rehearsing it a hundred times? She felt his fingers on her shoulders. He turned her toward him. “Tell me your name, please.” His voice radiated charisma and power.
Golden sparks danced in his green eyes as his gaze scanned her face, skimmed her cheeks and mouth, and bore into her soul. He shot an eyebrow up. Her heart plummeted to her toes. He was more stunning than she remembered, more handsome than in her dreams—or her nightmares. She noticed the dark, silky curls at his nape escaping from the billowy cap. Blinking, she averted her gaze.
He doesn’t recognize me.
Her throat constricted, she stood in front of him like a student in front of her teacher. At Harvard, the other students would have laughed at her audacity to toss her cap so high. Imagine, plain Meredith Rose Spaulding, the library nerd, trying to catch the gorgeous Dr. Beauchamp, the hot topic of delectable gossip. She’d been so used to coping with her classmates’ nastiness at the time.
Had he ever really looked at her?
And now I’ve changed. It had taken her forever to stop holing up away from prospective friends and as many months to lose her extra fat. She was different now. Slim and pretty. Even attractive, according to her colleagues. And definitely less gullible.
Maybe it was a good thing he didn’t recognize her as the frump from the past. She counted to three, trying to regulate her breathing, and raised her chin, pleased that she had a chance to start afresh with him. “I’m Meredith Spaulding. I’m sorry about the mess I made.”

Mona Risk

2 comments

  1. Nightingale // October 27, 2007 at 1:30 PM  

    Very intriguing. He sounds like my kind of guy!

  2. JACLYN // October 28, 2007 at 9:42 AM  

    MARVELOUS! GREAT HOOK INTO STORY.
    CAN'T WAIT TO READ THE WHOLE BOOK.
    JACLYN