The Doctor's Former Fiancee(4)

By: Caro Carson

The beautiful-est girl in the world.

Damn it all to hell.

* * *

Lana crossed the beige carpet to the conference table, taking care to walk as if she were as confident as she hoped she looked in her high heels and her dark blue coat dress.

“Dr. Donnoli?” A young woman in a lab coat addressed her. “Would you like to make the presentation to Mr. MacDowell?”

MacDowell? Lana’s gaze darted from the woman to the man in the dark suit. He’d been sitting with his back to the door when she’d walked in, but now he was facing her. Braden MacDowell. Her Braden MacDowell.

For a moment, she was frozen. Confused. It was as if being in this hospital had not only refreshed all her memories, but actually conjured her ex-fiancé in the flesh. Quite a magic trick—an unwelcome, unwanted trick of the mind.

Her administrative assistant, a compact ball of energy one would hesitate to label “elderly,” burst through the door behind her.

“Sorry I’m late,” the gray-haired Myrna said. “Oh, good. I see you’ve got that projector working.”

Lana barely processed the words. Every brain cell was occupied with Braden. He looked just the same. It took only one glance for her to recall the feel of his skin, every angle of his jaw, the texture of his dark hair sliding through her fingers. Myrna kept talking as she placed notepads around the table. Lana was grateful for the valuable seconds it provided to regain her composure.

“You must be the president of Plaine Labs,” Myrna was saying, making small talk and saving Lana. “Cheryl called me this morning to say you’d be here. I didn’t realize you were already in the building. Welcome to our conference center. May I introduce our new chairperson, Dr. Lana Donnoli?” She gestured at Lana. “Dr. Donnoli, this is Mr. Braden MacDowell.”

Braden stood and nodded at Lana politely. Impersonally. How did he manage it? Was she nothing more than a past memory, an old college girlfriend?

“Dr. Donnoli,” he said, and the bored formality in his voice went straight to her heart. And it hurt.

That he could still have that kind of power over her, six years after leaving her behind, made her angry. She extended her hand to shake his, determined to show him the professional she was, not the heartbroken girl he probably remembered sobbing over a phone line.

“Mr. MacDowell?” she asked, with a skeptical lift of her brow. “Isn’t it Dr. MacDowell?”

“I don’t use the title.” He shook her hand firmly, once, and let go.

“Why not? You earned that much.” She knew she’d made it sound as if it wasn’t much at all.

“I’m well aware that it’s an academic title only. Since I don’t practice medicine, I don’t choose to use it.”

Myrna stopped in the middle of placing her pens. “Do you two already know each other?” She sounded a little confused, and a little hopeful.

“Not at all,” Lana said tersely at the same time that Braden said, “Very well.”

“Ah,” Myrna said, looking confused but obviously too smart to explore that topic further. Instead, she gestured toward the senior resident, who was standing by her laptop, finger poised on the enter key. “This is Dr. Everson. She joined our department this month.”

“My card,” Braden said, offering Lana a small rectangle of pressed linen paper.

“Thank you.” She should have offered him her card, of course, but she hadn’t had a chance to get any made. Instead, she asked the very young-looking Dr. Everson to please begin the presentation and took a seat directly across from Braden, on the opposite side of the narrow table.

As the resident began with slide number one, Lana glanced down at the card in her hand. The initials of the corporate giant formed the familiar PLI logo in gold and burgundy ink. Very expensive ink, as she recalled from the days she’d spent at stationery stores, choosing wedding invitations. She and Braden, up to their necks in med school student loans, hadn’t been able to afford colored engraving like this. They’d planned to send their wedding invitations in plain, formal black ink, like his name on this business card:

Braden MacDowell, M.D., MBA

Also By Caro Carson

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