The Brooding Surgeon's Baby Bombshell. Susan Carlisle

The Brooding Surgeon's Baby Bombshell - Susan Carlisle

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      THEIR NIGHT OF passion had started so innocently.

      Dr. Gabriel Marks had taken the only open seat at the dining table. The petite young woman with the light brown hair and quick wit he remembered from the committee meeting six months earlier sat to one side of him. She smiled and said hello, as did the rest of the committee members.

      Their chairperson had organized the dinner for those members flying in that evening. The next day they would all be attending the meeting at the High Hotel at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

      As a transplant surgeon, Gabe was honored to serve on the liver committee of the National Organ Allocation Network. The group met twice yearly to discuss issues involving liver donation and policy. The professionals who made up the committee, as well as family members of patients, came from all over the country and represented different areas of liver transplantation. What they did was important and saved lives.

      If he remembered correctly, the woman dining beside him was Zoe somebody, a former registered nurse who now worked for the Liver Alliance, a group that educated people with liver disease and assisted patients needing a liver transplant. The Liver Alliance did good work. He’d had some dealings with the group in the past regarding patients with special considerations, but he’d never met Zoe before joining the committee.

      The discussion around the table was lively during their meal and he appreciated Zoe’s quick wit and infectious laugh.

      The next morning, they had acknowledged each with a warm hello but had sat on opposite sides of the table during the six-hour meeting. When Zoe had spoken up, her remarks had been intelligent, enlightened and spot-on. He’d been impressed.

      After the meeting had adjourned he’d headed to the airport to catch his plane home. But his quick check of the flight board revealed his plane had been grounded because of thunderstorms. Gabe was watching the word Canceled cascade down the panel when a groan of dismay had him turning around. It was Zoe.

      She looked at him, her face screwed up. “Sorry. I hadn’t meant to be so loud. This wasn’t in my plans.”

      “It never is,” Gabe responded.

      “You’re right about that.” She looked up and down the concourse. “I guess I’m going to spend the night in the airport.”

      “I bet if we hurry we can get a room in the hotel before everyone figures out what’s going on.” Gabe turned back the way they had come.

      “A room?” Her voice squeaked.

      He gave her a pointed look. “I meant a room apiece. Are you always so literal?”

      She grinned, walking past him at a fast clip. “I knew what you meant. I just wanted a head start if there was only one left.”

      He chuckled and hurried to catch up with her. A short time later they had rooms for the night. As they walked toward the elevator Gabe said, “I’m sorry, but I’ve racked my brain and still can’t come up with your last name.”

      “Avery. Zoe Avery.” She chuckled. “That came out sounding a little James Bondish, didn’t it?”

      He laughed. “Maybe a little bit. Would you like to meet for supper? Unless you have other plans.” He rarely had a night free of paperwork and he wasn’t going to spend this one by himself. Not when he liked this woman and was fairly confident she’d accept his invitation.

      They entered the elevator. “What other plans would I have but to channel surf?” she answered with a grin.

      Her mischievous talk appealed to him. As a transplant surgeon at a San Francisco hospital, he didn’t have many people in his life who dared to speak to him so freely. He found it refreshing.

      The elevator doors opened. As she prepared to exit, he held the doors open. “Meet you at seven in the hotel restaurant?”

      “There’s not a wife who’s going to be mad at me, is there?” Her playful grin belied the serious concern in her eyes. Had a date ever lied to her about being married?

      “No wife. How about your husband?”

      “No. Not one of those either.” There was a sad note in her reply, yet she cheerfully confirmed, “See you at seven, then.” She waved as he stepped out.

      Gabe took a moment to appreciate the gentle feminine sway of her hips, anticipating the evening to come.

      * * *

      He was waiting at the restaurant entrance when Zoe strolled up. There was a bright smile on her face. “Sorry, I didn’t have anything else to wear.” She brushed a hand across the front of the simple navy dress she’d been wearing earlier in the day.

      “You look great to me.” And she did. Something about her pulled at him. He wanted to know her better.

      She grinned. “Thanks. You know the right thing to say to a stranded woman.”

      He chuckled. “If we have to be stuck somewhere, I’m glad it’s a place with hot running water.”

      “I’m surprised you didn’t say food.”

      “Now that you mention it, that’s important too. Our table won’t be ready for a few minutes. Would you like to wait in the bar?”

      “Sure.” Zoe walked ahead of him. She was a tiny thing with a powerful personality.

      He ordered their drinks and carried them to a small table. They sat and talked about that day’s meeting until the waiter came to get them.

      Zoe stood, brushing against him as she moved to avoid someone sitting next to them. Gabe’s blood heated. He had no doubt her movements had been unintentional, but his body reacted just the same. It had been some time since a woman had gotten to him on so many levels so quickly.

      The waiter showed them to a corner table and handed them menus. They discussed what they would order and were ready when the waiter returned.

      After he’d left Gabe remarked, “If I remember correctly, you’re a patient advocate with the Liver Alliance and live in the Washington, DC, area.”

      “That’s a good memory. I’m impressed. You were paying attention.”

      Feeling ashamed, he said, “Apparently not when you said your name.”

      “It’s okay. It happens.”

      “So have you always been with the Liver Alliance?”

      “I went to work in an ICU when I was fresh out of school. I worked a lot with liver patients and really liked it. I decided to go back to school and become a liver transplant coordinator. About a year ago I needed something with regular hours. The Education Chair position came open and it was a perfect fit. Good, stable hours, a tiny office, and I’m still working with the people I love.”

      Gabe nodded. “And you like living in DC?” He didn’t normally quiz his dinner dates, but his curiosity about Zoe was uncharacteristically strong.

      “I do. There’s always plenty to do. Museums to visit, music festivals and just the excitement of being in the center of our government.”

      Her enthusiasm for the area was contagious.

      She leaned back and looked at him. “And you’re from San Francisco. Pretty city.”

      Obviously, she’d been paying more attention than he had during introductions. “Yep.”

      “That’s a pretty tough commute for these meetings.” She ran her finger down the side of her water glass, leaving a trail of condensation.

      What would it feel like to have her do that over his chest? He shifted in his chair. They were having dinner.

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