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Authors: Tina Beckett

A Daddy for Her Daughter

BOOK: A Daddy for Her Daughter
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A family to heal them...

After losing his little girl five years ago, Dr. Kaleb McBride has kept himself to himself. He can't face losing anyone ever again. Then beautiful Madeleine Grimes enters his world...

Maddy's priority is her young daughter. So she's just as determined to ignore her burning attraction to Kaleb! But when stolen kisses turn into something more, Maddy wonders if she and Chloe can heal Kaleb's heart...and make the perfect family!

He was going to kiss her. Right here in the middle of the park.

And she wanted him to. Desperately.

Half-afraid she might be daydreaming the whole thing and that she would snap back to attention, she curled her hand around his nape and murmured his name.

And then he was bending closer, his warm breath stirring the fine hairs on her temple.

The first touch of his lips against hers set off a chain reaction she was powerless to ignore. His elbows landed on either side of her shoulders and he lifted his head to look at her, as if trying to gauge her reaction. When he moved in again, the pressure was firmer, more insistent. Nothing like the light, exploratory touch a second ago. No, his head had shifted a quarter turn to the left, his mouth fitting perfectly over hers.

Settling in.

And she was okay with that. The fingers at his nape wandered to one of his shoulders, where the muscles bunched deliciously under her skin. All thoughts of kites and laughter were long gone. This was deadly serious—the stuff pillow talk was made of. Only, Maddy didn't feel like talking. And she hoped Kaleb didn't, either.

Dear Reader,

Have you ever felt responsible for a death you could have done nothing to prevent? A death that brought your whole world crashing down around you? Kaleb McBride finds himself in just such a position when he loses his only child to a terrible disease. His marriage unravels soon afterward, and he finds himself totally alone. He shuts himself off, vowing never to have more children. And then he comes to the aid of a woman at a party who is in the middle of an asthma attack. Their attraction is immediate and explosive. Except Madeleine Grimes has a child. And a troubled past. In spite of both of those things, Kaleb soon finds himself in over his head.

Thank you for joining Kaleb and Maddy as they each struggle to let go of crushing grief and learn to enjoy life again. And maybe, just maybe, they'll discover that love is not as far out of reach as they'd thought. I hope you enjoy reading their story as much as I loved writing it!

Love,

Tina Beckett

A DADDY FOR HER DAUGHTER

Tina Beckett

Books by Tina Beckett

Harlequin Medical Romance

The Hollywood Hills Clinic

Winning Back His Doctor Bride

Midwives On-Call at Christmas

Playboy Doc's Mistletoe Kiss

The Dangers of Dating Dr. Carvalho
To Play with Fire
His Girl From Nowhere
How to Find a Man in Five Dates
The Soldier She Could Never Forget
Her Playboy's Secret
Hot Doc from Her Past

Visit the Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
for more titles.

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To my husband, for putting up with my weird, writerly ways!

Praise for Tina Beckett

“The book had everything I want from a medical romance and so much more... Tina Beckett has shown that the world of romance mixed with the world of medical can be just as hot, just as
wow
and just as addictive as any other form of romance reads out there.”

—
Contemporary Romance Reviews
on
To Play with Fire

“Tina Beckett has the ability to take me on a journey of romance so strong and so mind-blowing it feels like I am floating on cloud nine for weeks afterwards. This time she has certainly done it again!”

—
Contemporary Romance Reviews
on
How to Find a Man in Five Dates

“A tension-filled, emotional story with just the right amount of drama. The author's vivid description of the Brazilian jungle and its people make this story something special.”

—
RT Book Reviews
on
Doctor's Guide to Dating in the Jungle

CHAPTER ONE

K
ALEB
M
C
B
RIDE
HATED
TUXEDOS
.

It was safe to say that he and tuxes were no longer on speaking terms. He wore them only when it was required of him. Like tonight.

Sprinting down the steps of the Seattle Consortium Hotel, he made it a point to avoid eye contact with anyone as he dashed by. Because everywhere he looked, all he saw were costumes. Except this wasn't Halloween and the myriad assortment of outfits or lack thereof was enough to make his head swim. From Elizabethan gowns to fairy-tale characters to flappers loaded with fringe, it was the only thing like it he'd ever seen. He even skirted a lone vampire who emitted a low hiss as he strode past.

If the hospital hadn't made an agreement to provide concierge medical care to guests at the hotel, he probably wouldn't even be here tonight.

A costume designers' masquerade party. Who on earth even thought up something like that?

A suited doorman nodded to him and motioned him through yet another velvet-lined hallway. “She's in the reception lobby.”

His patient, he assumed, and the reason he'd left the hospital's swanky yearly fund-raiser—which was still trudging along without him in the hotel ballroom. Thank goodness for medical emergencies.

He burst into the lobby.

There.

Sure enough, sprawled on the floor next to a cluster of fancy potted plants was a woman dressed all in black. Shiny black.

Evidently the hospital hadn't realized they'd booked their event on the same day as this. Both were dress-up affairs, but where one was as serious as it was upscale, this one looked...well, surreal. And a whole lot more fun.

Jacques, the hotel manager, was kneeling beside the downed woman, who was lying on her stomach. What he'd decided must be a long black leotard ended in sky-high boots of the same color. Had she fallen off them? A tail was attached to a cute little tush. Something he had no business noticing.

Jacques looked up as Kaleb reached him, the relief in his eyes evident. “I think she's hyperventilating.”

Even as the man said the words, a muffled sound came from his patient, a rasping roar that was much too labored for his liking.

“Let's turn her over.”

A black mask that looked like a patchwork of glossy black latex bound together with white stitching covered the woman's whole head, leaving only her eyes and bright red lips exposed. Cat ears were perched on top.

The woman was dressed as a cat. A very sexy cat at that.

A quick glance could find no zipper, and the wheezing was getting steadily louder. Panicked green eyes looked up at him, one hand going to her chest as it continued to rise and fall in staccato heaves.

“We need to cut this mask off her. Now.”

The roaring paused for a second before starting up again. “No.” Wheeze, wheeze, wheeze.
Cough.
“...sister...kill me.”

Sister? To hell with her sister. A question surged to the forefront of his mind. “Do you have asthma?”

“Yes.” The rattling sound grew worse. “Albuterol. In my purse. Left at desk.”

Desk?

Jacques spoke up. “Some of the guests checked their briefcases and purses in at the concierge rather than carrying them around all night.” He glanced down. “Do you know your ticket number?”

The woman shook her head, gasping again. Her fingers fumbled at the wide belt encircling her waist. Kaleb spotted an opening in the side. Brushing her hands away, he felt inside and came out with a slip of paper. “Here.”

Jacques grabbed it and leaped up, heading to the desk a few feet away. In less than a minute, he came back with a black purse.

Without waiting to ask, Kaleb reached into the dark recesses of the bag and encountered a familiar-shaped object. “Got it.” He pulled the canister free, giving it a couple of hard shakes to mix the contents.

Wheeze. Cough.

Feeling vaguely obscene, he pushed the inhaler against those red lips, his skin brushing the delicate point of her chin as her mouth wrapped around the canister.

Even as he pumped off a couple of shots of medication, it hit him how warm the lobby was. Maybe because it was packed with people. Beads of perspiration lined his own neck and face.

Between the elaborately designed costumes and the crowded conditions in the room, he was surprised he hadn't been called to treat any of the attendees before now.

Still holding the inhaler, he listened for her breathing. It immediately began to settle down, the hollow wheeze changing to a deep pull of air accompanied by a much easier exhalation.

“It's working.” Her voice came out in a whisper.

She reached up and took the inhaler from him, those bright eyes glancing at his face and then skipping away just as quickly. Something sparked to life in his chest.

He couldn't know her.

Swearing to himself that he only had her best interest at heart, he cleared his throat. “We still need to get the headpiece off so you can breathe easier.”

She gave a hum that he took as assent.

“Zipper?”

“Adhesive fastener. At the back.” She paused, the inhaler still in her hand. “I'm sorry. I just couldn't make it to the counter to get my purse or I could have done it myself.”

He could well imagine. With those heels and trying to navigate through the crowd, it would have been quite a feat under normal circumstances much less during an asthma attack.

Now that the medical crisis was easing, he was aware that a few costumed characters had gathered around them. Probably waiting for the great unveiling.

A tiny glimmer of anticipation sizzled through his own system.

Not the time, Kaleb.

He helped her sit upright before reaching behind her head, finding the seam and prizing apart the edges, the sharp rip of the fastener tape as it gave way filling the air around them.

He carefully peeled the stretchy fabric forward, easing it away from her face. The second he tugged it free, he stopped dead, his inner warning system going on high alert.

His own breath sluiced from his lungs in a rush he was helpless to prevent.

It couldn't be. And yet it sure as hell looked like her. So unless she had a doppelgänger...

“Madeleine?”

From the shiny red curls—only slightly flattened by the tight mask—to the flashing warning in her eyes, there was no mistaking who she was.

One of the doctors from the hospital. His hospital.

But there was no way the Madeleine Grimes he knew would have been caught dead in an outfit like this.

Before he could even cobble together a sentence, she nodded. “It's a very long story.”

“I'll bet.”

“Exactly.”

He blinked. “I'm sorry?”

“Nothing. My sister thought my coming here would be a good idea. She kind of dared me to... Well, she set me up on a—” her eyes went to the floor and stayed there “—blind date.”

Blind date?

He just wasn't seeing it.

The glare she sent him dared him to say one word. Not likely.

How in the hell would she even be able to tell what her date looked like? Or maybe that was the point—she could be caught up in some kind of weird role-playing fetish.

Only the Madeleine Grimes he knew tended toward uptight and aloof, rather than...

Than what?

He had no idea how her sister could have talked her into climbing into that sexy costume and prowling around the lobby looking for her date. Or why Madeleine would even agree to it.

But suddenly he wanted to find out.

Wanted to understand the thought processes that had led her here. But he would only get that if...

If he got her out of here.

Before he could think better of it, he said, “And this blind date. Do you know his name?”

“Yes, it's Max Hayward.” Her eyes slid away from his again. “But when I asked at the reception desk, he hadn't arrived. I think he stood me up. Not that I wasn't tempted to do the same thing.”

She gave a quick lift of a shoulder. “I'm going to take everything that's happened tonight as a sign. I'll leave a note at the desk, telling him I had to leave unexpectedly, just in case.”

“That's probably a good idea.”

“I think so too.” Taking a deep breath and blowing it out, Madeleine tilted her head back, revealing the long line of her throat. No hint of the asthma attack she'd had moments earlier. “Man, I can't wait to get out of this costume.”

She reached for her elbow and peeled a long black glove down her arm, revealing pale creamy skin as she went. She did the same with the other glove. The process was...agonizing.

His muscles tightened.
Knock it off, Kaleb. It isn't like she's going to strip herself naked in front of all these people.
Although he'd had some pretty crazy thoughts when he'd slid off that mask and seen who was sitting there. The contrast between the Madeleine he thought he knew and the one in this room was a little unsettling.

Taking a hurried breath of his own, he struggled to come up with a coherent thought. “Your sister. Does she work at the hospital as well?”

“No.” She gave a quick laugh, scooping her inhaler from her lap and dropping it in her purse. “She faints at the sight of blood. She's a costume designer, which is another reason I agreed to come. I was supposed to be a living advertisement for her work.”

“Work. There's actually a market for...?” He gestured toward her outfit, not sure what he was asking.

“Look around you. From theater, to film, to school plays, there's always a demand for well-made and innovative costumes.” She scrubbed a hand through her hair, ruffling it into an unruly mass that he found oddly appealing. Then she took one of the shiny gloves and held it up. “This is Roxy's realm, not mine.”

Roxy. A fitting name for the creature in whose suit Madeleine had found herself.

And from the word
dare
she'd used earlier, Kaleb had to assume that this was not a place Roxy's sister would have chosen on her own.

“So you're here under duress?”

“Let's just say that Roxy said I needed to loosen up. She bet I wouldn't last two minutes at one of these conventions.”

“And did you?”

“Yes. I would have been here an hour if something from the costume hadn't set off an attack.”

He smiled and stood, offering her a hand, which she accepted, gracefully rising to her feet and adjusting the belt at her waist. “How long did you agree to stay?”

“Until the party died down. But surely she won't accuse me of cheating under the circumstances.”

He tensed, hand tightening slightly on hers at the word
cheating
. Maybe because that was exactly what his ex-wife had done. He, more than anyone, understood her particular circumstances, but he'd still felt like the biggest fool on the planet when he'd discovered what she'd been doing. Hiding her grief behind a mask just as surely as Madeleine had hidden her identity behind hers.

“Do you want to run by the hospital and get checked out before finishing your night?” Releasing her hand, he braced himself to tell her goodbye. Something he should have done ten minutes ago.

“I think I'm done for the evening.” This time, it was Madeleine who smiled, and the flash of white teeth was something he wasn't used to from her. The woman was always so serious. Then again, this whole night had been like something out of one of those strange dreams. The ones where nothing made sense.

Like this surreal encounter? He glanced around again, really taking in his surroundings this time. Standing in his tuxedo in a roomful of costumed adults, Kaleb felt out of sorts. And definitely out of place. Especially when there was what looked like a deflated cat's head on the ground beside a beautiful woman.

Even as the thought went through his mind, she reached down and scooped up the mask, letting it sit in the crook of her left arm. “Thank you again. I probably would have been better off going to the hospital's fund-raiser instead. But I don't do stuffy...”

The words cut off abruptly, and her teeth sank deep into her lower lip. Rich color swept all the way to her hairline.

Kaleb allowed one side of his mouth to curve up. “You don't ‘do stuffy'—” he gestured around the room “—but you'll do this.”

She laughed. And the sound cut straight to his gut. It was rich, melodic and made things tighten in awkward places. Her palms floated up and down, as if weighing her options. “Stuffed shirts or make-believe. I can't decide.”

Suddenly, he wanted to hear that laugh again. He bent closer. “I would offer to take you upstairs and show you what you're missing...” When her eyes widened, he realized how the suggestion sounded. “Upstairs, as in the party going on in the fifteenth-floor ballroom.”

“Oh.”

Was there a tiny bit of disappointment in that single word?

Of course not.
It's all in your imagination, bud.

“How about a cup of coffee instead? I want to make sure that asthma attack is all the way under control.”

“Coffee sounds wonderful, but I can't go anywhere dressed like this. I need to go home and change.” She hesitated. “I have coffee there.”

He gave another half smile. “You do? Is that an invitation?”

“Well, I...I mean if you want to join me, that would be okay. And no one's there at the moment.” She shook her head. “Well, I mean my cat is there, and my sister is...”

Her voice trailed away.

“Your sister is there? With the cat?”

“No.”

There went those white teeth nibbling at her lower lip again. “But the coffee is there. With the cat. Right?”

“Yes. Why don't you stop by for a cup? It's the least I can do to say thank you.”

“No thanks necessary, but I would love to. Especially if you won't agree to run by the hospital for a quick checkup.”

BOOK: A Daddy for Her Daughter
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