Surgeon in a Tux

By: Carol Marinelli

PROLOGUE


‘ACCOMMODATION PROVIDED’ WAS starting to take on a whole new meaning!

Lizzie Birch took the lift to the fifth floor with her heart in her mouth, sure that there must have been some mistake—that this couldn’t possibly be her new home.

When she had been given the trendy Marylebone address Lizzie had convinced herself it would be something like the rather drab nursing accommodation she had shared in earlier days—a stunning old building, divided into bedsits perhaps …

This was anything but that.

As she turned the key Lizzie stepped into a tastefully furnished, high-ceilinged flat and caught the scent of flowers. Turning, she swallowed when she saw an elaborate bouquet and a basket of luxurious nibbles and wines there to greet her.

Lizzie walked over and inhaled the gorgeous fragrance of spring, but on a cold January morning. They must have cost a fortune.

The place must be worth a fortune, Lizzie thought, biting into a chocolate champagne truffle and closing her eyes in bliss, but when she opened them she blinked, completely overwhelmed at her new surroundings. Only now was she starting to fully realise the true coup of becoming Head Nurse at the Hunter Clinic at 200 Harley Street.

There was a note to say that the uniforms she had sent her measurements in for were waiting for her at the clinic. It was a far cry from the usual package of white dresses or theatre scrubs that Lizzie was rather more used to. It was all as rich and as expensive as the voice Lizzie had so far only heard on the other end of a telephone.

Leo Hunter.

‘You come highly recommended.’ There had been an edge to his voice that had made Lizzie frown; after all, the recommendation as to her suitability for the position had come from Leo’s own brother, Ethan.

‘Thank you.’ Lizzie hadn’t really known what to say. ‘I was very flattered when Ethan suggested that I apply. He said to call and hopefully arrange an interview—’

‘The job’s yours,’ Leo had interrupted. ‘There’s no need for an interview, unless you want to hop over to Switzerland.’ Lizzie hadn’t been sure if he’d been joking or had meant it. She’d heard the sound of rich laughter in the background and Leo had apologised for the noise—explaining that, like all good cosmetic surgeons, now that the Christmas rush was over, he was skiing—and then Lizzie had frowned in confusion as he’d told her that he looked forward to seeing her in the New Year.

Was that it?

He hadn’t even asked about her employment history! He didn’t seem to care that her work with Ethan had simply been agency work and that she was, in fact, a senior nurse in Accident and Emergency.

He’d given the job as easily as that!

‘Oh,’ Leo added, just before he rang off. ‘Did you want accommodation?’ As easily as that he tossed it into the conversation—his clipped, well-schooled voice delivering the offer almost as an afterthought. ‘As Head Nurse of the Hunter Clinic, we can offer you that.’

‘Offer it?’ Lizzie checked.

‘A furnished flat …’

Lizzie clutched the phone as he thanked someone, presumably for a drink because she could hear the chink of ice cubes as his attention came back to her. ‘I’m not sure which one, we’ve got a few within walking distance of the clinic.’ Lizzie was about to decline—anything within walking distance of 200 Harley Street would be way out of her price range—but then Leo continued, ‘It’s part of the package, though if you already have somewhere to stay, we can come to—’

‘That would be great.’ It was Lizzie interrupting now. Trying and failing to sound blasé, but a furnished flat within walking distance would save a fortune, not just on rental but on travel. Lizzie had moved from Brighton to London a couple of years ago and had found it fiercely expensive, especially with all her parents’ nursing-home bills. She wasn’t used to perks and certainly not one of this magnitude. ‘The flat would be marvellous.’

‘Good,’ Leo clipped. ‘Gwen, the clinic manager, will be in touch with all the details and I’ll see you in the New Year.’

Happy New Year, Lizzie thought as she looked out of the window, marvelling at the glimpse of Regent’s Park, unable to believe all this was really happening to her.

Leo’s brother, Ethan, had been a patient of Lizzie’s. He had returned injured from Afghanistan and Lizzie had been making home visits, treating his badly injured legs. She’d known Ethan was a doctor but had had no idea of his dazzling family history. Ethan had been silent and brooding and, knowing some of what he had been through, Lizzie hadn’t taken it remotely personally. Instead she had filled the long silences with chatter about her own life—her aging parents, her mother’s Alzheimer’s, the on-going concern she had for them despite the fact they were both in a home. How the decision to sell the family home had been a hard one. How expensive it all was. How she tried to get down to Brighton to visit them most of her days off.

How it hurt that her mother rarely recognised her.

Her tongs had paused in mid-dressing, she had been talking more to herself, but it had been Ethan who had, for once, broken the silence.

‘They’re lucky to have you.’

‘No.’ Lizzie had smiled, glad to hear him engaging. ‘I’m lucky to have them.’

Slowly Ethan had started talking and when he had told her that he was thinking of working in the family business, heading up the charity side of his brother’s cosmetic and reconstructive clinic, Lizzie had taken an interest, more because she’d been glad that Ethan was finally communicating.

It had never entered her head that he would put her forward for the position of Head Nurse at the clinic. More than that, she had never thought she would be accepted.

Lizzie was plagued with insecurity about the sudden change in her career, sure that one look at the very fresh-faced Lizzie and Leo Hunter would change his mind.

She wandered through the flat and to the gorgeous bathroom and stared at her reflection in the large mirror, wondering what head nurse to a renowned cosmetic surgeon ought to look like.

Lizzie looked at her light brown wavy hair and brown eyes and a face that rarely wore make-up and thought of all the celebrities and beauties she would be facing come Monday.

She thought too of facing Leo.

Of course she had looked him up and life hadn’t been the same since!

It was rather like the day her blushing mother had told a very naïve Lizzie the facts of life. The autumn crocus in her elderly parents’ lives, Lizzie had been cosseted and protected from such things. The day they’d had the talk, suddenly it had seemed that periods and sex were everywhere—from adverts on television to full pages in magazines.

It was the same with Leo Hunter—he was everywhere now.

He was the chiselled-jawed, blue-eyed hunk that cavorted on snow-capped mountaintops behind royalty as they were photographed.

Black hair brushed back, he was that beautiful face on the table next to a celebrity, he was that man walking beside a stunning model as she tripped on her way out of a nightclub.

Lizzie had just never paid attention till now.

Leo Hunter was a heartbreaker, surgeon to the stars, irredeemable playboy and, as of Monday, he would also be her boss.





CHAPTER ONE


‘I HIRED HER, didn’t I?’ Leo’s response to his brother was terse. ‘So why wouldn’t I be nice to her?’

‘You know what I mean, Leo.’

Rarely was Ethan the one to walk away. He turned on his heel and attempted to stalk out of his brother’s plush office but despite the simmering anger, despite ten years, no, a lifetime of rivalry, Leo’s jaws clamped together at the painful sight of his brother’s attempt to stalk off.

God only knew the mess of Ethan’s legs, Leo thought. Ethan certainly never spoke about them and Leo had only read about them. Leo could still remember the pain and humiliation of having to learn from a news article that his brother was recovering in hospital.

So much for being next of kin.

Ethan’s time in Afghanistan was something Ethan chose not to discuss but his pain was evident and, yes, Leo wished his brother would share, open up, but why would he? Leo thought.

They’d never been close.

Their father had seen to that long ago.

‘You’re not proving anything by refusing to use a walking stick.’ Leo watched as Ethan’s shoulders stiffened but, hell, if his older brother couldn’t say it then who could?

‘If I want a further opinion I’ll go to someone who …’ Ethan didn’t finish, he didn’t have to—that was the dark beauty of being brothers, there was enough history to know exactly what the other meant without having to spell things out. As Ethan’s disdain for Leo’s work briefly broke through the tense, simmering surface, exposing the rivalry beneath, Leo merely shrugged.

‘Mock it all you like,’ he said, as Ethan turned to face him. ‘But I’ll tell you this much—my patients walk out of here feeling one hell of a lot better than they did when they first walked in, and,’ he added, ‘might I remind you that it’s my work and subsequently my patients’ word of mouth that have pulled the Hunter name out of the gutter. While you were busy playing soldiers …’ Leo broke off, wishing he could retrieve his own words, because Ethan hadn’t been playing at anything. Ethan’s injuries were a product of war. He was a hero by anyone’s standards—especially Leo’s. ‘That was below the belt,’ he admitted.

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