Ryleigh Evans is totally over her ex-husband—no doubt about that. Sure, pediatric specialist Dr. Nick Damian is still as sexy as he is dedicated. And he's the perfect person to father the baby she longs to have. But no matter how much their no-strings bargain makes things burn even hotter between them, Ryleigh refuses to believe this suddenly vulnerable man can ever let her completely into his heart....
Nick Damian, pediatric surgeon extraordinaire, was stunned to see his beloved ex-wife in his office, offering the deal of a lifetime. And it was a deal he would take. Because he'd let Ryleigh slip out of his arms once before. It wasn't a mistake he would make a second time!
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USA TODAY bestselling author Kasey Michaels is the author of more than one hundred books. She has earned four starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, and has won an RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award and several other commendations for her contemporary and historical novels. Kasey resides with her family in Pennsylvania. Readers may contact Kasey via her website at www.KaseyMichaels.com and find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKaseyMichaels.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
They were the poster couple for an amicable divorce, but that didn't mean seeing her ex-husband on the first day of a new job wasn't nerve-racking.
Ryleigh Evans was about to test the boundaries of their comfortable friendship and knew it was an exam she could flunk spectacularly. Any minute he would arrive in her office and she was bracing for impact. Trying to, anyway.
At Mercy Medical Center, Nick Damian, M.D., was a legend. But how did one prepare to ask a legend for the biggest favor ever?
Blackmail would be good if she had something on him, but she didn't.
Opening the top button on her blouse and showing a little cleavage might help. The problem was she didn't have much in the way of cleavage and what she did have hadn't impressed him while they were married. Two years later there was no reason to believe that had changed. Against the odds, they now had a warm and supportive friendship that she didn't want to lose.
Ryleigh had just moved back to Las Vegas from Baltimore to take the position of regional coordinator for Children's Medical Charities. The organization raised money and funded kids' projects at the hospital. Nick was a pediatric pulmonologist and it was only a matter of time until their paths crossed. She just didn't want the crossing to be another Titanic. Hence this private meeting in her office, the first available time slot in their busy schedules since she'd returned.
There was a knock on her door that seemed as loud as a gunshot and just as startling. Even though she'd been expecting it.
"Too late for cleavage," she whispered before calling out, "Come in."
Her heart was pounding and she didn't actually hear the door open, but it must have because Nick was standing there. In worn jeans and a long-sleeved white cotton shirt, one wouldn't peg him as a doctor, but the stethoscope draped around his neck was a big clue. When not wearing scrubs, this was as professional as he dressed because he'd told her once that kids were intimidated by a suit. And a tie turned into a handy weapon for a pissed-off pediatric patient who'd been poked by needles one too many times and wanted to choke someone.
She stood, walked around her desk and stopped in front of him, then reached up to give him a hug. "Hi, Nick. It's really wonderful to see you."
His arms folded her close and felt warm, strong, familiar. A bittersweet feeling squeezed her heart, but she pushed it away. This wasn't about the past. She was working on her future.
"Ryleigh," he said, against her hair. "Welcome back."
When her heart started to race, she backed several steps away and asked, "How are you?"
"Never better." Her voice was full of forced perkiness, which she hoped he didn't notice. It had been close to two years since they'd seen each other face-to-face. Their contact had been long phone calls, text messages and emails. They talked about everything including politics, books and movies. "You look great."
Understatement of the century.
He studied her with eyes that were an especially intense shade of blue and turned down just a little at the corners. They gave him a sad look, one that made every softhearted female and some who weren't so sensitive want to hug him and make whatever was bothering him better. She wasn't immune, and pushed that feeling away.
"Your hair is shorter," he finally said.
Automatically she reached up and brushed her palm over the brunette layers that barely touched her shoulders. She was surprised he'd noticed. When they were married, she'd thought about shaving her head, to see if that would get his attention. But she was afraid he wouldn't even notice something that drastic and it could have destroyed her.
"I like it," he said.
"Thanks." The compliment started a glow inside her, but she refused to give it any traction. Back on task. "In case you're wondering why I asked for this meeting—"
"You figured it would be more private than bumping into me in the hospital cafeteria."
"And here we are. Being more private." He folded his arms over his chest and smiled as if he were a proud mentor. "Look at you. The new regional coordinator for CMC."
"How about that? I wanted to come back—for this job," she clarified. There was another agenda, but she needed to wait to spring that on him.
"Because of the kids," he guessed.
"That's one of the reasons."
"How long has it been? Two years?"
"That sounds about right. Since the divorce," she qualified.
"Longer then, since you moved to Baltimore before that."
"Yeah. I thought you'd come after me." Did she really say that out loud? She hadn't meant to. Something about seeing him deactivated the filter between her brain and mouth.
How naive she'd been then. She hadn't handled things well and took responsibility for the immature behavior. Her only excuse was that she'd been young and hopelessly in love. It had been almost a physical ache when she wasn't with him, which was pretty often since he always went when a patient called. He dropped everything, even her. She hadn't known how to ask for what she wanted then. But she was older, wiser and wouldn't make the same mistake now.
"Ry, if there was—"
"Ancient history," she interrupted. It didn't hurt anymore because she'd made herself fall out of love with him.
Nick was the only one who'd ever called her Ry and the familiarity combined with his regretful expression caught her off guard. It struck a chord inside her that hadn't been plucked since the last time she'd seen him, and the vibration was uncomfortable.
She backed away again, then turned and moved behind her desk to sit in the high-backed black chair. "The thing is, Nick, I'm back. And it's important to me to make sure you and I are okay."
"If we weren't, it would have been pretty easy to ignore your emails, texts and phone calls."
"Still. There's no facial expression with electronic communication."
"Meaning you can tell if I'm lying?" he teased.
"You would never lie." She believed that with every fiber of her being. "But I can see if you're okay."
"What you're getting at is whether or not I'm angry that you left. The answer is that I never was. I understood."
So not what she wanted to hear. If he'd said he hated her guts, she could live with that, proof of sorts that she'd been more important to him than a lamp shade. She wasn't proud of the fact that, on some level, leaving had been about getting an emotional reaction from him, just the tiniest clue that he'd cared even a little. She'd been looking for a sliver of hope that he could fit time in his schedule for her—for them.
She'd told him about the job offer on the East Coast and spun her own personal fantasy that he would pull out all the stops to talk her out of going. The truth was closer to him not even realizing she'd gone. None of that slipped out because it was ancient history. She'd moved on and had different aspirations.
But seeing him in the flesh reminded her why he was an important component of achieving her goal. He was just as handsome as the first time she'd seen him. His thick, dark hair with the waves barely slicked into submission still made her want to run her fingers through it. His cheeks and jaw were shadowed with scruff, just like she remembered. In the beginning of the separation, she'd actually missed the "beard burn" and wondered if she needed therapy.
He still looked good. Better than she remembered. Hotter than she'd hoped.
"We're fine, Ry," he said, meeting her gaze. "I was happy to hear you were the one hired for this job."
"Yeah. You'll be a good fit."
"Okay. I'm glad you think so." She smiled. One hurdle down. That cleared the way for the ultimate friendship test. "It's really wonderful to see you."
"Same here." The grin he flashed was hot enough to melt the polar ice cap.
Once upon a time it might have fed her fascination for him, but all this time away had worked magic. The dynamic between them was different. She could see him as an attractive man and not be sucked in by the charisma.
"I like this. Friendship is the new norm." Although she had other friends and none of them made her skin tingle with just a look. It would pass. "So, my friend, can we talk business?"
Nick rested a hip on the corner of her desk. "What kind of business?"
"Money," she said. "It's my job to raise it and I get to have a good deal of input on how to spend it."
"So, I need to be nice to you?" One of his dark eyebrows went up.
"It can't hurt." She was only half joking. Getting professional was a stall until she'd worked up the nerve to discuss what was really on her mind. "I'm meeting with all the doctors who specialize in pediatric medical disciplines to find out what the most pressing needs are. I'd like your wish list for how to use the money we raise."
Without hesitation he said, "ECMO."
"Would you care to translate for those of us who don't speak doctor?"
"Extra corporeal membrane oxygenation."
"That makes it much clearer," she said dryly. "Is it a machine or a process?"
"Both." Intensity shone in his eyes. "It works on the same principle as a heart-lung machine for babies with IRDS." When he saw her look, he added, "Infant respiratory distress syndrome."
"I need more information."
He thought for several moments, probably figuring out how to dumb it down for her. "When an infant's lungs get stiff, a respirator...
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Book Description Harlequin, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0373656084
Book Description Harlequin, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0373656084
Book Description Harlequin, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110373656084
Book Description Harlequin. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0373656084 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0111219