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Authors: Carol Grace

The Magnificent M.D.

BOOK: The Magnificent M.D.
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“I Came To Ask You To Come Back Home And Practice Medicine,”

Hayley said.

“Let me get this straight. You want a high-priced heart surgeon to come back to the place that ran him out of town to play Family Practitioner to the few remaining inhabitants?”

“We're desperate.”

“I wouldn't go back if they offered me the Nobel Prize.”

“I'm afraid we can't do that, but—”

“But what? You'll give me a chance to live on the right side of the tracks for a change? Or respect…admiration? No, thanks. I prefer the life I have and the patients who pay me lots of cold, hard cash for my services.”

She winced. Was that really why he'd become a doctor? After his dirt-poor, poverty-stricken childhood, she couldn't blame him for wanting security.

“Of course you wouldn't understand that,” he continued. “Being a Bancroft, you've always had everything you ever wanted.”

Everything except for you,
she thought.

Dear Reader,

In keeping with the celebration of Silhouette's 20
th
anniversary in 2000, what better way to enjoy the new century's first Valentine's Day than to read six passionate, powerful, provocative love stories from Silhouette Desire!

Beloved author Dixie Browning returns to Desire's MAN OF THE MONTH promotion with
A Bride for Jackson Powers,
also the launch title for the series THE PASSIONATE POWERS. Enjoy this gem about a single dad who becomes stranded with a beautiful widow who's his exact opposite.

Get ready to be seduced when Alexandra Sellers offers you another sheikh hero from her SONS OF THE DESERT miniseries with
Sheikh's Temptation
. Maureen Child's popular series BACHELOR BATTALION continues with
The Daddy Salute
—a marine turns helpless when he must take care of his baby, and he asks the heroine for help.

Kate Little brings you a keeper with
Husband for Keeps,
in which the heroine needs an in-name-only husband in order to hold on to her ranch. A fabulously sexy doctor returns to the woman he could never forget in
The Magnificent M.D
. by Carol Grace. And exciting newcomer Sheri WhiteFeather offers another irresistible Native American hero in
Jesse Hawk: Brave Father.

We hope you will indulge yourself this Valentine's Day with all six of these passionate romances, only from Silhouette Desire!

Enjoy!

Joan Marlow Golan

Senior Editor, Silhouette Desire

The Magnificent M.D.
CAROL GRACE

Books by Carol Grace

Silhouette Desire

Wife for a Night
#1118

The Heiress Inherits a Cowboy
#1145

Expecting…
#1205

The Magnificent M.D.
#1277

Silhouette Romance

Make Room for Nanny
#690

A Taste of Heaven
#751

Home Is Where the Heart Is
#882

Mail-Order Male
#955

The Lady Wore Spurs
#1010

*
Lonely Millionaire
#1057

*
Almost a Husband
#1105

*
Almost Married
#1142

The Rancher and the Lost Bride
#1153

†
Granted: Big Sky Groom
#1277

†
Granted: Wild West Bride
#1303

†
Granted: A Family for Baby
#1345

Married to the Sheik
#1391

CAROL GRACE

has always been interested in travel and living abroad. She spent her junior year in college in France and toured the world working on the hospital ship
Hope.
She and her husband spent the first year and a half of their marriage in Iran, where they both taught English. Then, with their toddler daughter, they lived in Algeria for two years.

Carol says that writing is another way of making her life exciting. Her office is her mountaintop home, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and which she shares with her inventor husband, their daughter, who just graduated college, and their teenage son.

One

H
ayley Bancroft walked into the waiting room of the medical office at 450 Sutter Street, San Francisco, a little after five o'clock. The faint smell of medicinal alcohol brought back memories of her grandfather's office: his waiting room packed with mothers and babies waiting for checkups, old folks with arthritis and an occasional kid with a cast on his leg just begging to be autographed. She thought of him, the essence of the small-town doctor, peering through his bifocals as he soothingly reassured his patients. He knew everybody in town, cared about them, was never too tired to make house calls. She missed him so intensely she had to blink back a tear as the memories came rushing back. The receptionist cleared her throat and turned off her computer which nudged Hayley out of her reverie.

“The doctor isn't seeing any new patients,” she told Hayley brusquely.

Hayley took a deep breath. “I'm not a new patient. I'm an old…an old friend.”

“He isn't seeing any old friends, either.” The woman checked her watch, reached under her desk for her purse and stood, eyeing Hayley coolly. “He isn't seeing anyone.”

The sound of deep male voices rumbled from behind a heavy mahogany door with Samuel J. Prentice M.D. printed on it in gold letters. And underneath the name, the word Cardiology. Oh, Lord, she was hoping Sam was a family practitioner, not a specialist. But beggars couldn't be choosers. And Hayley was prepared to beg, if necessary. Anything to convince him to come back to New Hope. If he didn't…she didn't know what to do next. She'd tried everything and everyone else. The town was counting on her.

She met the woman's steely gaze head-on. So he was there. And he
was
seeing
someone.
Since she hadn't come a thousand miles to be turned back by some starchy guardian of the shrine of Dr. Sam Prentice, she took a seat in a large faux-leather chair under a tasteful still-life painting and curled her fingers around the edge of the seat cushion.

“I'll wait,” she said. After all, what could Nurse Ratchet do, throw her out forcibly?

For a long moment the receptionist stood at the door, perhaps contemplating just that—tossing her out on her ear. Hayley met her gaze and didn't waver. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Finally the woman shrugged her narrow shoulders, shoved her arms into the sleeves of her sweater and left.

The voices behind the closed door got louder. Hayley couldn't resist. Any scrap of information could help her cause. After a brief moment's hesitation she walked softly across the thick carpet and pressed her ear against the door.

“Dammit to hell, Al, I'm not leaving the hospital,” Sam shouted. “I've got a full surgery schedule up through September and a waiting list of electives. As long as I've got patients I'm going to stay here and operate on them. Is that clear?”

Hayley hadn't heard him speak for some seventeen years, since he'd left New Hope, but the sound of his voice reverberated through her like a bell, sending shock waves through her body. He sounded just as bullheaded, just as stubborn as ever. It was enough to send an ordinary person scrambling for cover. What made her think she could talk him into coming back home? Unless she used her ultimate weapon. She'd given her word she would never use it, never tell him. But if her grandfather knew what was at stake, wouldn't he have given her the go-ahead? Wouldn't he have agreed that his office needed to be filled, that the people in her town wanted, needed, deserved a doctor?

“Look, Sam, I'm not asking you to retire. I'm asking you to take a break, a year or at least six months off. How bad can that be?” Al asked.

“How bad? I'll tell you how bad. Surgery is what I do. It's what I am. Ever since medical school I've been working eighteen-hour days. I intend to continue.”

“Until when? Until you make a serious mistake? When will you realize you're burned out, that you're overscheduled and overworked and you desperately need to take some time off?”

“Are you referring to the patient I lost over the weekend, because if you are, I did everything humanly possible—”

“I know you did. When I ask you to take time off I'm not only thinking about your patients. I'm thinking about you. I'm thinking about your health—your mental health. Look at you, you're tense, you're irritable, you're on the
verge of cracking. I care about you, Sam. I care about your future. Which I hope will be long and productive. I saw you Sunday after you broke the news to your patient's family.”

“You saw me, okay, so I lost it. I failed and I felt bad about it. I don't like to fail. I don't like to lose a patient. It's not that unusual to have a reaction.”

“It's unusual to take it out on the nurses. It's unusual to punch a hole in the door of the supply room.”

Sam muttered something, but Hayley couldn't make it out.

“You tell me,” Al continued. “Tell me what you'd say if I was your patient. If I had your symptoms. You know what they are. Short temper. Chip on shoulder. Runaway ambition and drive. You'd tell me to take a break. To bug off for six months to a year. To do something different. Something besides surgery. Anything.”

“No. The answer is no,” Sam said brusquely. “I'm not taking a break. I'm not going anywhere.”

“That was not a request Sam,” Al said. “That was an order. You're a fine surgeon. We need you here. But not in your present condition. Either you take a leave or I'll fire you. I'm doing this for your own good. I want you to come back with a fresh outlook and a new attitude. You're young, you've got years ahead of you. You've been working eighty-hour weeks for what…ten, fifteen years? Take the damn six months off.”

There was a long silence. Hayley could picture Sam pacing back and forth, jaw clenched, seething. Then he finally spoke.

“Let's say I agree to take a break. What am I supposed to do for six months?”

“I don't know. Get a hobby. Take a cruise. Play golf.
Catch up on your reading in obscure medical journals. Find a woman who'll put up with you and get married.”

“That's your solution to everything. Find a woman. I've tried it…it doesn't work.”

Hayley recognized the cynicism in his voice. He hadn't changed. At least his attitude hadn't. She wondered what he looked like after so many years. She pictured the dark curly hair that he'd worn long and wild. The cleft in his chin, the broken nose from a fight in high school, the high cheekbones and the black eyes with the insolent expression.

“Then choose your own poison. Do something different. Anything. Cut out the long workdays. Get away from here. Get out of town. How many ways can I say it?”

Hayley leaned against the door, gripping the doorknob for support. So he wasn't married. Not that it mattered. Not to her. What would he do now? Would he take his boss's advice? The old Sam didn't do well with authority figures. Didn't like taking orders. The old Sam sounded very much like the new Sam as a matter of fact. Stubborn, hardheaded and proud. She was hoping he'd changed, mellowed into a genial family practitioner. She should have known better.

“I hear you, Al. Now get out. I've got some thinking to do,” Sam said.

“I'll expect your request for medical leave tomorrow,” Al said.

“Al…”

“All right, I'm going,” Al said.

Before she could retreat, the man opened the door, and Hayley fell forward and stumbled into the office.

There was a long moment of silence. It was hard to tell who was more surprised. Sam, who was staring at her as if she'd fallen out of the sky, his boss, who was blinking
owlishly behind horn-rims, or Hayley herself. This wasn't how she'd planned to meet Sam. She needed all the poise and all the ammunition she could get. To be caught eavesdropping put her at a disadvantage to say the least.

When she'd finally caught her breath and regained her balance, everyone spoke at once.

“What in the hell…”

“Who are you?”

“I—I'm sorry, I…”

“One of your patients, Sam?” Al asked.

Sam frowned as if he was trying to decide if she was indeed one of his patients or one of those women he'd tried it with and it hadn't worked out or the wife of a colleague or…

“Hayley Bancroft,” she said, unable to stand the silence any longer. “From New Hope.”

Sam's eyes narrowed. He leaned back against his desk and surveyed her from the top of her casually tousled blond hair down the simple black suit she'd chosen after trying on everything else in her closet, to the low-heeled shoes she'd been walking around town in trying to get up enough nerve to come in to his office.

“Hayley Bancroft,” Sam repeated, still staring. “What in the hell are you doing here?”

“It's a long story,” she said.

“Sounds interesting,” Al said. “I wish I could stay and hear it, but I'm out of here. Don't forget what I said.” He shot a pointed look at Sam, gave Hayley an appreciative glance and closed the door behind him.

She'd practiced over and over what she would say, but now that she was here her mind went blank. She'd thought, she'd hoped, that Sam might have changed in the past seventeen years. She couldn't have imagined he'd be even more good-looking as a mature, confident physician than
he ever was as a bad boy. Or that he might be more dangerous to her well-being than the day he'd left New Hope for good. But he was.

“It's good to see you, Sam. It's been a long time,” she said. There, it wasn't very original, but it was an opening. And she'd even kept her voice steady.

“Has it?” There it was, that damn-your-eyes tone of his. The tone that said, the hell with you, the hell with New Hope and everyone in it. Except for her grandfather. Sam and Grandpa had had a special relationship, until the end. But at the end it wasn't enough to save Sam. Eventually Sam had saved himself. With a little help.

“What brings you down here, Hayley?” he asked, as if she were only an old acquaintance he barely remembered. Maybe she was. Maybe she'd magnified what was once just a one-sided teenage crush on the town bad boy into the lost love of her life. She envied his attitude. If only she could be so cool, calm and collected, so downright
indifferent
about seeing him again. Instead her heart was pounding, and she was fighting off the urge to run out of there and never come back. If it weren't for the whole town counting on her…if it weren't for the legacy her grandfather had left—

“Can I sit down?” Her knees were so weak that if she didn't sit fast, she'd fall down.

He shrugged, and she gratefully sank into a real leather chair while he remained standing, arms crossed over his waist.

“I came to ask a favor,” she said.

“What do you need? A bypass, angioplasty, a pacemaker?” His bold gaze traveled over her body causing an outbreak of goose bumps all over her skin.

“No, thanks, not yet,” she said.

“I didn't think so. You look as if you're in pretty good
shape,” he said with an appreciative half smile. “For your age.”

“Thank you,” she said. “So do you.” That was the understatement of the year. The hair had been tamed, the boyish features had hardened, solidified into the face of a ruggedly handsome man. A man who obviously still took chances, still did things his own way and who'd overcome a mountain of obstacles to get what and where he wanted. A man who once had nothing, but now seemed to have everything except for a calm, steady temperament. She couldn't blame him for his attitude toward her. Of course he wasn't glad to see her. He remembered only what he thought she'd done to him. She and her grandfather.

“Get to the point, Hayley. You didn't come all this way so we could exchange compliments.”

How brusque he was. How cold and uncaring. She should have known. She should have expected it. She took a deep breath. It was now or never. “No. I came to ask you to come back and practice medicine in New Hope.”

“What?” His stunned tone indicated that she'd finally captured his wholehearted attention.

“My grandfather died a year ago,” she blurted out. “We're looking for a doctor to take his place.”

“Let me get this straight. You want a high-priced heart surgeon to come back to the place that ran him out of town and play family practitioner to the few remaining inhabitants?”

“I didn't know you were a high-priced surgeon. Not until a half hour ago. I was hoping you'd be a GP like Grandpa. Not that anyone could fill his shoes, but if you're worried that people won't accept you—”

“I don't give a damn if the people of New Hope accept me or not. I wouldn't go back there if they offered me the Nobel Prize.”

“I'm afraid we can't do that, but—”

“But what? You'll give me your grandfather's old office on Main Street where the grateful patients leave a bushel of apples on the front steps when they can't pay? Or maybe a membership in the so-called country club? A chance to live on the right side of the tracks for a change? Or respect…admiration? No, thanks. I prefer the life I have. Challenging, cutting-edge procedures. Brilliant colleagues. And patients who pay for my services. Cold, hard cash.”

She winced at his blunt admission. She could understand his needing a challenge and stimulating company. His brain always ran twice as fast as anyone else's. But what about his need for money? Was that really why he'd become a doctor? Knowing his background, she really couldn't blame him for wanting security. After a dirt-poor, poverty-stricken childhood, he was then abandoned by his parents. Why shouldn't he want a roof over his head and the knowledge he could buy whatever he wanted? The things most people took for granted had been missing from his childhood. Why shouldn't he want a different kind of life than the one he'd known in New Hope? She had. She'd left town to find it. But she'd made a decision to come back. She had to convince him to come back too.

BOOK: The Magnificent M.D.
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