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Authors: Karen Rose Smith

The Good Doctor

BOOK: The Good Doctor
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Praise for Karen Rose Smith:

“…powerful characterization, balanced emotional moments, and a tense, compelling story line.”

—
Romantic Times
on
His Little Girl's Laughter

“Karen Rose Smith has penned a delightfully heartwarming tale filled with faith, hope and joy.”

—
Romantic Times
on
Just the Man She Needed

“Dynamic, skillful and refreshing, Karen Rose Smith's writing keeps the reader turning pages and begging for more. Ms. Smith's near flawless style, realistic characters and tension-filled plots make for a satisfying experience every time you read one of her books.”

—
Cataromance.com

“Karen Rose Smith writes her books with heart, flooding her words with emotion and demanding a reaction from the reader. Ms. Smith is a shining star in the romance world….”

—
WritersUnlimited.com

“Karen Rose Smith stories are what romance is all about.”

—
RomanceJunkies.com

 

Don't miss Signature Select's exciting series:

The Fortunes of Texas: Reunion

Starting in June 2005, get swept up in twelve new stories from your favorite family!

COWBOY AT MIDNIGHT by Ann Major

A BABY CHANGES EVERYTHING by Marie Ferrarella

IN THE ARMS OF THE LAW by Peggy Moreland

LONE STAR RANCHER by Laurie Paige

THE GOOD DOCTOR by Karen Rose Smith

THE DEBUTANTE by Elizabeth Bevarly

KEEPING HER SAFE by Myrna Mackenzie

THE LAW OF ATTRACTION by Kristi Gold

ONCE A REBEL by Sheri WhiteFeather

MILITARY MAN by Marie Ferrarella

FORTUNE'S LEGACY by Maureen Child

THE RECKONING by Christie Ridgway

KAREN ROSE SMITH
The Good Doctor

 

Dear Reader,

Revisiting a Texas setting is a pleasure for me. Returning to the Double Crown and the Fortune family is exciting. The family is steeped in history and intrigue that surrounds likeable characters, as well as villains. In this continuity, I had the opportunity to write about Ryan and Lily Fortune again, along with my hero and heroine who are doctors. The research surrounding all of it was fascinating. One aspect of writing a continuity I particularly enjoy is working with the other authors to coordinate story lines and characters. While writing a continuity, I reconnect with old friends and make new ones.

In
The Good Doctor,
Violet Fortune and Peter Clark face obstacles in their path to love. The continuity characters have their own hurdles to overcome. Writing about the Fortune family is always a challenging adventure. I hope you laugh and shed a tear as you read this story. If you do, I know I've accomplished my goal—making the Fortunes real for my readers.

All my best,

To my agent, Evan Marshall. It's hard to believe we've been together over ten years. Thank you for your ongoing support, encouragement and counsel.

Many thanks to Dr. Steve Goldberg and his wife Kristi for their help with medical research.
The information you provided was invaluable.

One

“Y
ou've got it all now,” Linda Clark decided as she appraised her brother.

“Just wait till those nurses get a gander at you,” Stacey agreed, her smile as wide as her sister's.

Dr. Peter Clark swiftly closed his office door, hoping no one had heard. “Cool it, you two,” he demanded in a stern voice as he strode to his desk, wondering how long this visit was going to last. He had an appointment in fifteen minutes. His sisters weren't in awe of him as some of his patients were, so it might be hard to kick them out. He loved them dearly but sometimes…

“I don't know why I let you dress me like a mannequin,” he grumbled. He was still not sure the navy tweed blazer was something he would have chosen on his own. He definitely wouldn't have bought the silk shirt and the patterned designer tie.

“You turned thirty-nine yesterday, and you wouldn't even let us give you a party. The least we could do is spruce you up a bit,” Linda teased, brushing her dark brown hair away from her face. “Now tall, dark and handsome really applies. I like the new haircut, and we didn't even have anything to do with
that.

“My regular barber was out of town.”

A laugh came from Stacey's direction. “Thank goodness! The only thing we could add now is color contacts to make your eyes a little greener.”

He'd had enough. They'd taken him to lunch and then accompanied him to a men's store to pick up his tuxedo for Friday night. Despite his protests, they'd insisted on buying him a blazer, shirt and tie as birthday gifts, convincing the store manager to have them pressed so he could wear the outfit back to the office. His usual routine wasn't as frivolous, not by a long shot. Most days he was in the hospital or in surgery from dawn to dusk. This venture into the lighter side of life just didn't fit him any more than some of those blazers he'd tried on.

He deliberately checked his watch. “I have an appointment in ten minutes.”

“We're not leaving until you assure us you'll show up on Friday night.”

Counting to five, he tried to keep the impatience from his voice. “You talked me into the bachelor auction because it's for a good cause. I never go back on my word. Not even if that means I have to endure the humiliation of standing on a runway and having women bid on me. Now, as I said…”

Linda sighed. “Your life is much too serious. I couldn't stand doing what you do. A pediatric neurosurgeon holds too much power in his hands. How do you handle that responsibility?”

“Very carefully,” he replied seriously.

Nothing meant more to him than his work and the kids he
treated. In fact there was one right now who was breaking his heart. The bachelor auction would be raising money for high-tech equipment for the pediatrics wing to help children like Celeste. That was the only reason he'd agreed to be a part of it. That, and the fact that the wing had been built as a memorial to his mother. If only there was someone like his mom to help with his little patient. She needed loving care as much as she needed high-tech equipment and surgery—maybe even more.

There was a knock on his office door and Katrina, his receptionist, poked her head inside. His office would be chaos without her. He was in partnership with two other neurosurgeons and she made sure the organization of their schedules and appointments didn't interfere with the work they did. She was a petite dynamo in her forties with short-cropped, curly black hair, a round face and an impish smile.

“Dr. Violet Fortune is here. I didn't think you'd want to keep her waiting.”

Linda's brows arched under her dark bangs. Stacey's mouth rounded as she digested the Fortune name.

“A Fortune coming to see you? What's all that about?” Linda asked. Then, as if a lightbulb went on in her head, she snapped her fingers. “Oh, I get it. Violet Fortune's a neurologist with a reputation almost as good as yours. Maybe she came all the way from New York to consult with you.”

“Okay,” Peter said, rising to his feet. “You did
not
hear a name. You have amnesia about anything Katrina said.”

“We'll see Violet Fortune on our way out. Her picture has been in the
Red Rock Gazette
now and then,” Linda concluded. “You know, that paper
you
never read because medical journals are more important.”

His sisters were successful women in their own right. Stacey owned a small boutique in one of San Antonio's gallerias, and Linda was a loan officer with a major financial institution.
Both of them, however, seemed to be able to see the lighter side of life much better than he could. Maybe because he'd been the firstborn. Maybe because when their mother had died, the event had shaken his world the most. Perhaps that was why they'd been able to accept his father's quick remarriage afterward—as well as their stepmother—and he never could.

Both of them were on their feet now, realizing he did have work to do. Linda gave him a quick hug. “Happy day-after-your-birthday once more.” She patted the sleeve of his blazer. “Really hot,” she kidded again.

He couldn't help but laugh then as Stacey hugged him, too, and added, “If not before, we'll see you Friday night. Just make sure that black tie's straight before you stroll down the runway, okay?”

When his sisters stepped into the hall, he decided to walk them out. He didn't want them waylaying Dr. Fortune out of curiosity. They must have sensed that because they grinned at him, waved and cast a few long glances at the woman sitting in his waiting room. Seconds later they were gone and he turned his attention to Violet Fortune.

As soon as he did, he was caught off guard. She was stunning. Absolutely stunning. Her reputation as a brilliant diagnostician had already reached Texas. At only thirty-three, she'd already made her mark in her field. Maybe he'd envisioned her in a lab coat, with a severe hairdo and a no-non-sense demeanor, but the flesh-and-blood Violet Fortune was the polar opposite.

Her hair was light brown with sun streaks, chin-length and had obviously been cut and styled by someone who knew what he was doing. It was silky and bouncy, complementing the patrician lines of her face. Her eyes were light blue, sparkling and vulnerable. That surprised him, too, but then he didn't know why she was here. Certainly she knew he had a
pediatric neurosurgery practice. Did she have a child? Had his friends Ryan and Lily Fortune recommended him?

“Dr. Fortune?” he asked, just to make sure.

Standing, placing the magazine she'd been paging through on the chair beside her, she gave him a smile that socked him in the solar plexus. “Yes, I'm Dr. Fortune. Are you Dr. Clark?”

“Last time I looked,” he countered with his own smile, ignoring the lightninglike signals his libido was sending his body.

Since October in Red Rock, Texas, could still be warm, she was wearing a full-skirted royal blue dress with a yellow-and-red design around the hem. He suspected the short, boxy jacket covered straps to a sundress. Dark red high heels showed the curves of her legs to perfection, he noticed, then he quickly jerked his gaze up to hers.

When he extended his hand, the action helped him focus and he could more easily ignore the reaction he was having to her. “It's good to meet you, although I'm a bit puzzled as to why you're here.”

“Ryan and Lily have spoken highly of you.”

The soft grip of her hand registered along with everything else about her. She seemed to be looking into his eyes with the same intensity he was looking into hers, and that created electricity.

“I think highly of them,” he said, releasing her hand and pulling away.

Breaking eye contact, she quickly glanced around the office but no one else was in the room. Despite the fact his receptionist was behind her glass window, still Violet kept her voice low. “This visit has to do with Ryan.”

All business now, hearing the somberness in her voice, he motioned down the hall. “Let's talk in my office.”

Having decided long ago not to follow in any man's footsteps, Violet kept up with Peter's long strides, studying him
while he didn't have his attention on her, wondering why the earth had seemed to shake a little when he'd taken her hand in his. She didn't react that way to men, especially not male doctors. In fact, she'd begun to think something was wrong with her—that she was frigid. Since her teenage years when she'd so desperately sought a boy's attention, something in her heart had simply turned off when it came to romantic relationships. Peter's tall, lean but muscular physique, his short but thick black hair and his piercing green eyes had created a twitter inside of her she couldn't seem to still.

His office door was open, and he stood aside so she could enter before him. A gentleman, she thought. Wasn't that rare? She'd grown up with four brothers who treated her as a projection of themselves. Chivalry had never been part of their relationship, though the brothers were fiercely protective of her.

The aroma of coffee wafted around the office and Peter gestured to the pot on the credenza that had obviously just been brewed. “Katrina must have snuck in here and started that for me. Would you like a cup?”

“No thanks. I'm fine.” Violet was worried and anxious enough. She didn't need caffeine revving her up more. Maybe that was why she felt this attraction to Dr. Clark, because her guard was down. It had been down for over two months now. That was why she'd come to Texas to her brothers' ranch.

Apparently deciding his own mug of coffee could wait, Peter Clark lowered himself into the high-back, leather swivel chair behind his desk. He waited until she'd seated herself in one of the gray tweed chairs across from it. The barrier and the bit of distance made her feel more self-possessed than when he'd greeted her in the reception area.

“So what can I do for you?” he asked, curiosity evident in his expression.

Taking her dark red clutch bag in her hands, she opened it
and extracted a legal-sized envelope. When she handed it to him, she concluded seriously, “You'd better read this first. It's from Ryan.”

After he glanced at it, he looked even more perplexed. “Essentially it's a release form giving you permission to discuss him with me.”

She nodded. “That's precisely what it is. I'm not only a relative and good friend to Ryan and Lily, but I'm a neurologist, as well.”

“I know that. I'm familiar with the articles you've published. You've made a name for yourself in a short amount of time.”

“I guess New York isn't as far from Texas as I sometimes think it is.”

“The world
is
getting smaller, but it's more than that. Red Rock is a small community and the Fortune name means something here. Besides your relationship to Ryan and Lily, your brothers have established themselves, too.”

Her brothers Jack, Steven, Miles and Clyde had vacationed in Red Rock as kids and they all had decided to settle here as adults. Steven and his new bride, Amy, had bought his own ranch, Loma Vista, and was renovating it. A gala, during which the governor was going to present Ryan with an award, would take place there next month. Miles and Clyde's cattle and chicken ranch, the Flying Aces, where she was staying, was thriving. Her oldest brother, Jack, had just married recently and settled here, too.

“What I'm getting at,” Peter continued, “is that the Fortunes are continuously discussed in Red Rock, and that includes you.”

“Me? I don't even live here.”

“No, but your name and career are bandied about along with all the other Fortunes. Most people in town know your history.”

“What history would that be?”

“Education history for one thing. I heard with tutors you
graduated high school a year early. You also did a four-year college program in three. In med school, you earned respect quickly and began seeing patients in New York City when you joined a prestigious neurological practice there. Your life's an open book,” he added with some amusement.

An open book? Not by a long shot. No one but her immediate family knew why her parents had hired a private tutor for her and why she'd concentrated so hard on her studies. Not even Ryan and Lily knew what had happened to her as a teenager, the wrong decisions she'd made and the foolish choices.

Rerouting the conversation back to her visit, she nodded to the letter in Peter's hand. “I'm here because Ryan asked me to speak to you.”

“About?”

“He's having symptoms.”

“What kind of symptoms?”

She took another paper from her purse, opened it and laid it on his desk. “First of all, I need to tell you that Lily knows nothing about this and that's the way Ryan wants it. That's also why he took me aside at Steven and Amy's wedding to talk to me privately. He'd begun having severe headaches and he didn't want to consult with a doctor in Red Rock or San Antonio because he'd tried to brush off the pain at first. He also didn't want any more rumors to get started. There have been enough about him concerning…everything.”

“He's not still a suspect in the Christopher Jamison murder, is he? The police certainly should have ruled him out by now.”

It sounded as if Peter had no doubts about Ryan's innocence. “Apparently they
haven't
ruled him out. That stress alone could cause headaches. But he told me he'd never had this type of headache before, so I took him seriously.”

“Are you staying at the Double Crown?”

“No, I'm staying with Miles at the Flying Aces while Clyde
and my new sister-in-law Jessica are on their honeymoon. Miles insisted I stay there so we can visit. I can't show too much concern about Ryan because Lily and everyone else will become suspicious.”

Peter took the evaluation form she handed him and looked it over. His expression became more somber as he did. “He's having some tingling in his arm?”

BOOK: The Good Doctor
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