The Doctor's Latin Lover

By: Olivia Gates

PROLOGUE


THEY were gaining on her.

They were chasing her for more than her purse and jewelry. For more than her body and all the sick, violent freedoms they wanted with it.

She’d seen their faces. Rabid, high on cruelty and chemical stimulation. If they caught her, it would be the end.

She ran, her feet long frozen, her heart long burst, shrieked for help with a voice long gone.

No help came. Or would come. They were herding her, forcing her off the road and into the dark, dead wood.

“You’re dead, rich bitch.” A pubescent voice shrilled after her, hitting her square between her shoulder blades. Revulsion made her stumble. “You just don’t know it yet.”

Barely human, hyena-like panting hoots followed, scraping along her nerve endings. Loathing lurched inside her. It wasn’t enough to clear the fog of fear. And even the adrenaline was draining out of her. Resignation was already descending on her, would soon paralyze her.

If only she hadn’t always avoided ER and emergency surgeries. Perhaps she could have learned to keep part of herself in reserve, cool under fire. This was hopeless, but she didn’t have to make it easy for them!

Perhaps if she made it too much trouble to reach her, if she climbed a tree, maybe they’d just go away…?

A lifetime ago she’d been a tree-climber. Another forbidden activity she’d done behind her father’s back before every impulse and initiative had been trained out of her. Richardson princesses didn’t scrape knees and velvet cheeks. Didn’t fall out of trees and sprain precious hands groomed for Prince Charming’s five-carat diamond rings and ten-thousand-dollar scalpels.

Richardson princesses also didn’t attend the kind of party two of them had gone to tonight. The one she’d just escaped, only to discover she’d run from the fire into an inferno.

One of her stiletto-heeled evening shoes was long lost and her foot was raw. She had to kick off the second to climb.

She didn’t even remember how to do it. Her hands and legs trembled so hard she lost her grip and footing. She staggered down the few feet she’d climbed, her backless designer dress catching on the thorny branches, ripping. Her skin was already a red-hot map of lacerations.

Her pursuers were below her now. She hadn’t gotten far enough up. Two of them climbed after her, one snatching at her legs, the other at her long dress.

She plummeted to the ground and was only sorry the vicious impact didn’t knock her out. She lay at their feet, crumpled, cowering. Then she felt the clawing hands, saw the faces filling her dimming vision. Let them finish me quickly.

But instead of falling on her, one of her attackers flew into the air and hit a tree with a sickening crunch. A second assailant turned, only to convulse once and collapse on her in an unmoving heap.

She struggled under his dead weight, her mind frozen with all sorts of impossible fears. What force had come to her rescue? Would it now turn on her?

The body was heaved off her. Suddenly she was free from her burden and saw—him.

Huge, menacing, and emitting power. A man?

“I wouldn’t advise you to do that.” His voice was like the night, still, deep—heart-stopping.

Not heeding his advice, her regrouping attackers charged him, slashing the air with switchblades. He moved, maneuvered, his arcing legs and arms a dance of precise power. The thugs thudded to the ground one after another.

Then he turned to her. Dear God.

“Are you hurt?”

What did that matter as long as he was here?

Her headshake earned her a satisfied nod. Then he took care of business. He called the police and an ambulance for her, and knocked out those thugs who tried to stir, securing them for easy pick-up by the police. Then he stood by her as she gave her statement, supporting her in every way, and tried to get her to have her cuts treated, to call someone.

She just needed to be away from here. With him.

“I have a first-aid kit at home. Will you take me there?”

Everything went still as he stared down at her. If he said no…

He didn’t. He held her in the curve of his body all the way to his car, warding off the cold, absorbing the ordeal.

All the way to her apartment she luxuriated in studying him.

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