Книга - Italian Doctor, Full-time Father


Italian Doctor, Full-time Father
Dianne Drake

Enter into the world of high-flying Doctors as they navigate the pressures of modern medicine and find escape, passion, comfort and love – in each other’s arms!Dante has never shied away from a challengeDr Catherine Brannon knows her cool reserve will be tested by her new patient, surgeon-turned-racing-driver Dante Baldassare – her ex-fiancé! Dante the sports star, reputed to enjoy fast cars and fast women, she’ll keep at arm’s length. But Dante the father, devoted to a small boy, is a different story indeed… Family means everything to Dante – which is why he lost Catherine and became a single dad to his orphaned nephew. Despite their past, passion sizzles between them, and Dante realises they have something too precious to lose again.If this is a second chance, he’ll stop at nothing to win Catherine’s love…Mediterranean Doctors – Passionate about life, love and medicine.

“We don’t do well together, do we?”

They should, because they had. But this time it was so different. Her stomach was in knots all the time now, over the prospect of a chance encounter in the hall, or a spur-of-the-moment meeting in the therapy room.

“I’m sorry about that too, Dante. It’s my fault. You’re my patient, and as your physician I should be doing better by you, but…”

“Then you’re fired,” he said, his voice totally void of emotion. In spite of his flat words, his eyes sparkled. That dark glint gave him away. Always had.

“Just why would you do that now?” she asked.

“Because it’s not professional.” He moved forward, causing her to step back enough so that her back was pressed firmly to the door.

“What’s not professional? My treating you now, with the relationship we’ve had in the past? Because that’s what I’ve been saying all along, and…”

“What’s not professional is what I’m about to do, Catherine. Unless you open that door and run away, what’s going to happen between us should never happen between doctor and patient…”

Now that her children have left home, Dianne Drake is finally finding the time to do some of the things she adores—gardening, cooking, reading, shopping for antiques. Her absolute passion in life, however, is adopting abandoned and abused animals. Right now Dianne and her husband Joel have a little menagerie of three dogs and two cats, but that’s always subject to change. A former symphony orchestra member, Dianne now attends the symphony as a spectator several times a month and, when time permits, takes in an occasional football, basketball or hockey game.

Recent titles by the same author:









www.millsandboon.co.uk (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk)

For Bobby M, an amazing race-car driver and the love of a very young life. You’re still sadly missed, Bobby.


CATHERINE stared at the admission slip, not sure what to do. Or say. A new patient was routine. But one with the name Dante Baldassare was not and, right now, her heart was doing more than skipping a beat or two. Of all the places in the world where he could have gone, why here? Did he know this is where she was working? Was he coming here to torment her, to remind her of things best left forgotten?

She’d read that he’d been injured several weeks ago. But hadn’t he gone to the clinic in London? That’s what the newspaper had said. They’d flown him there for his rehabilitation after his surgery. So how had he ended up here, in Bern, Switzerland? How had he ended up in the clinic where she was medical director?

Catherine took another look at the admission slip, in case her eyes were playing tricks on her. Dante Baldassare. There it was, his name scrawled on the papers. After all these years, she still recognized the signature. Dante Baldassare—a new admission by Dr Max Aeberhard. Even though Max was no longer administrator of the medical side of operations here, as owner of the clinic he did still have the right to approve admissions. According to what she was seeing, this was a rush admission. Max had been on call, she had not. His decision, and she wasn’t going to question it. After all, Max didn’t know their history.

But her decision, had she been the one on call, would have been to send Dante somewhere else.

There was no changing what was already done, though. Unfortunately. Dante was already here and in the process of being checked in as a patient. She’d have to have an awfully good reason to send him somewhere else and a love affair gone bad wasn’t good enough.

Catherine slumped down in her chair, trying to blot out the image of Dante already trying to creep into her deepest thoughts, the place to which he no longer had a right to be. She’d seen his photo in magazines or newspapers several times over the past five years, so she knew what he looked like. Better now than then, if that were possible. Rugged, chiseled, darkly Italian-handsome and, according to the photos, improving with age.

That was one thing she’d never deny about Dante—he had the good looks that made female knees go wobbly and turned the heads of both genders. That day in the hospital at their first meeting, when he’d come to her for a consultation on one of his patients, it had taken her heart a full two minutes to calm down, had taken the rush of blood to her face just as long to become normal, before she’d even got down to medical business with him. Then she’d slept with him that night and every night they’d had the chance after that for the next six months. Then…well, she didn’t want to think about that now. Not when she should be figuring out a way to avoid the man who was, at this very moment, settling into the Geneva Suite. The reason—rehab after a second repair to a shattered ankle.

A second repair? Had something gone wrong with the first? The medical side of her took over for a moment. She hadn’t read anything about that in the newspapers, hadn’t heard a word on any of the sports reports she tried so hard not to listen to. So, what was going on?

Quickly, Catherine scanned the medical notes sent in from Dante’s previous clinic, but there was nothing noted that indicated what had happened. Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was that surgical complications he might have had could lead to an extended stay here. Which she certainly didn’t want. A two- or three-week therapy course was long enough if all went well, but if something else was going on…

“Why are you doing this to me, Dante?” she whispered, as she shut the manila folder and laid it down on her desk.

Because he was Dante, that’s why. If ever there was a man who knew how to get to her, it was the one she was bound, by clinic protocol, to go greet in the next few minutes.

Sighing, Catherine placed two fingers to her left wrist to see if her heart was beating as fast as it felt. It wasn’t, of course. And the tightness overtaking her throat wasn’t really a physical symptom of anything either, unless a reaction coming from seeing an ex-fiancé after so many years had a medical name attached to it.

“Just being silly,” she whispered. “That was another life. He’s over you, you’re over him.” Empty words. They didn’t make the panic rising in her go away. If anything, her symptoms increased. Face flushed. Chest tightened. “It was a relationship that shouldn’t have been. Twenty-four weeks on the calendar that made me a wiser woman.” She’d lived two hundred and seventy-two weeks since the last time she’d laid eyes on Dante and had done quite nicely during all that time, thank you very much.

So why was she reacting to him this way now? Since they’d parted she’d been married, he’d been…well, she’d read what he’d been, which was very busy with the ladies. All over the world!

Trying not to conjure up that image, Catherine picked up her phone and dialed her secretary. “Is Dante Baldassare settled in?”

“Yes, doctor,” Marianne Hesse answered. “According to the floor supervisor, he’s settled in, and grumpy about being here.”

Dante grumpy? Now, that was something she’d never seen. “Page Dr Rilke to go greet him. He’s been assigned as Mr Baldassare’s doctor, so he can have the honor of welcoming him to Aeberhard.” While she made up more excuses to keep herself away for as long as possible.

“You’re not going?” Marianne asked, sounding surprised. If there was one thing that could be counted on at Aeberhard Clinic, it was that protocol didn’t change. They stood on tradition, and while the clinical concept was casual, the overall clinic tradition was rigid. Except this once. But she couldn’t help it. She just plain didn’t want to see the man, not until she’d girded herself a little better for it.

“In a while,” Catherine responded, hedging. “I have a few other patients I need to see first.” And supplies to order, and staff review reports to be filled out, and phone calls to return, and patient discharge recommendations to finalize. There were any number of excuses not to go, all of them quite legitimate. Not good, but definitely legitimate.

To be honest, though, she was curious. That annoying little part of her that knew she was about to do something she’d regret was pushing her into it regardless of what she wanted, positively fighting to burst through. Admittedly, she did want to know if Dante would be impressed by her achievement. After all, she’d gone from junior hospital staff to clinic medical director in five years—an accomplishment of which she was proud. But what would Dante think of it? Or would he even care? He was so long out of medicine now, maybe none of this world would matter to him any more.

Actually, she still wasn’t sure how he’d walked away from medicine and been so indifferent about it—a man with his passion and skill. Of course, she knew how he’d walked away from her. That was probably the easy part for him, considering how he’d walked straight into the arms of another woman, then another, and another after that. A whole string of others, to be frank.

But she’d done well for herself in spite of all that mess. Gotten on with her life, albeit with a little glitch on the marriage front a couple years ago. Three years after Dante and she’d finally connected with another man, so they’d had a brief try together. No children as a result, however, and no particularly lingering impact from one year spent with a man who, one week after their wedding, had declared it was time for his wife to stay home, cook dinner, do laundry and bear him lots and lots of children. Somehow Robert Wilder had missed the fact the she was a career-woman, and somehow she’d missed that fact that her husband’s views on the perfect marriage were anything but what she considered perfect. It hadn’t worked out, and there really wasn’t much to say about it. She’d made a mistake. Robert deserved a woman who could be everything he wanted and she deserved her freedom from a man who wasn’t anything she wanted. Which was what she’d got.

Still, the impact of being left out of the important decisions in her marriage, of having someone else make them and not include her in them…she cringed even now, thinking about it.

But the timing of that little detour in her life had worked out as one month after their divorce she’d found herself in a major career change, going from being a lower-end staff doctor in a rehab hospital in Boston to medical director of a rehab clinic in Bern. A sensible move that had made her divorce seem all the better. The only thing that had bothered her some had been keeping Robert Wilder’s name. She’d intended to go back to Dr Catherine Brannon, but the whole Aeberhard Clinic offer had come so quickly, and her move to Switzerland almost in a whirlwind, then the ensuing months had been so busy she’d barely had time to breathe. So all her legal papers were still in her married name, but getting everything changed back to her maiden name was definitely on her to-do list when she had time. Right above taking that long, uncomfortable walk to the Geneva Suite to greet their new patient.

The phone buzzed, and Catherine jumped like a skittish cat.

“Dr Rilke isn’t here yet,” Marianne informed her.

“Where is he?”

“He’s on his way. Says he’ll be here in fifteen minutes. And we don’t have another doctor in the building at the moment.”

A long, quiet pause on Marianne’s end spoke the words the woman did not say. It was Catherine’s responsibility to go greet Dante. Catherine knew that, and her secretary knew that. Of course, Marianne wouldn’t say it, but she didn’t need to. “If he’s not here in fifteen minutes, I’ll go and see to Mr Baldassare.”

“Very good, doctor,” Marianne said, clicking off.

Catherine leaned forward, studying the outside of Dante’s folder. She was drawn to read more about him, and her fingers even skittered their way across the desk, latched onto the folder and pulled it back towards her, inch by inch, across the glossy mahogany top. She’d already read the routine information—height just over six feet, weight one hundred and ninety pounds. “You haven’t changed much,” she whispered, still refusing to take another look, specifically at the line indicating spouse. The truth was, she didn’t know. The bigger truth was, she didn’t want to know. She’d seen that he still lived in Tuscany. She’d also seen that he listed his occupation as race-car driver. Not medical doctor. But she hadn’t looked at anything filled in under family.

Her fingers played across the top of the file and just as she’d decided on pushing it away so she wouldn’t be so tempted, Marianne buzzed.

“Dr Rilke just called in.”


“He’s stranded. Car trouble. He said he’ll call for a mechanic and be in as soon as he can, but that it won’t be for quite a while.”

Catherine balled her fist and gave a little slam to Dante’s medical folder. Now she’d have to go and see Dante. No getting around it. “Ask him if we could send the clinic car to fetch him.” A suggestion made from sheer desperation, and a rather pathetic one at that. But desperate times called for desperate measures… Catherine knew all about that.

Something else she knew was how silly she was being about taking a look in the folder. She was the medical director here, for heaven’s sake. It was her duty to know her patient. Her duty to know every patient in Aeberhard Clinic. After all, she could practically recite Mr Newlyn’s family tree by heart, and call off the last four surgeries performed on Mrs Rakeen. She knew the names of Mr Gaynor’s three grandchildren and had intimate details of how to contact each of Mr Salamon’s four ex-wives. All from studying the charts. So this was ridiculous, thinking of Dante as anything but a patient.

Opening her balled fist, Catherine flipped back the cover of the folder and began reading. The first page was chock full of all the routine information she’d read before. The second page was about Dante’s medical history, which she’d also read earlier. Most of it sketchy, though. At the very bottom her eyes caught on the section where Dante had listed past surgeries. Appendectomy ten years previously. Damn, she didn’t want to remember that. Not the surgery itself, but the scar. How many times had she kissed that scar?

Fighting back that image, she kept on reading. More routine facts, financial information connected to how he could cover his bill, that kind of thing. Then, on the last page, she came to what she hadn’t wanted to read—family contact information. Not that she cared if Dante was married, because she didn’t. Yet it felt funny. An intrusion to which she wasn’t entitled. Or one that would dredge up some of the plans they’d made that would have put her name there on that page as his spouse.

“Stop it,” she whispered, drawing in a steadying breath. “One ex-fiancé pops up and look how you’re acting.” Her heart hadn’t even skipped a beat six months ago when Robert had called to ask her to sign a property settlement document she’d overlooked during the divorce. Yet look what she was doing over Dante. Going positively crazy! And she didn’t know why. That’s what troubled her. Dante was just another patient…granted, he was one she’d slept with and almost married, but he was still just another patient. She wasn’t in love with him. Hadn’t been for a good long time. So maybe this was simply an overreaction to the very hard life she was living right now. All work, no play. And no meant absolutely no, none, nada, not a drop of play not even for a minute. At least, not in the past year…or past two years, if she counted her marriage.

So, in an effort to prove to herself this silliness wasn’t as much about Dante as it was about herself, Catherine forced herself to finish reading the admission papers. The next few lines were all routine information. Same with the next few after that. Then she came to the next-of-kin section, and that’s where she stopped. There, in Dante’s own handwriting, was the name Gianni Baldassare. Age eight. Listed as Dante’s son.

“His son?” she whispered, shaking her head, then going back for a second look to make sure she’d read it correctly. Which she had, and that didn’t make any sense at all. If Dante had an eight-year-old son, that meant Gianni would have been three when she and Dante had been engaged.

She’d been engaged to marry a man who had a son, and he hadn’t mentioned it? Just like Robert hadn’t mentioned his plan for a stay-at-home wife?

“How could he have…?” she whispered, still stunned by the fact that Dante had asked her to share his life but had failed to include her in a very important part of it. She would have been a mother after some fashion yet he’d never bothered to tell her?

Of course, that proved solidly that she hadn’t known him, didn’t it? The evidence of that was in the photo—one she’d seen published in a sporting magazine a month after he’d gone home to be with his family. Dante in the arms of another woman, while Catherine had still been wearing his engagement ring. Full color, full page, that full Dante smile she’d thought had been only for her while that blonde in his arms looked on adoringly.

Catherine shut the folder, too dazed by what she’d just read to think, and buzzed Marianne. “Any word on Dr Rilke’s arrival?”

“Sorry, doctor. I offered to send a car, but he doesn’t want to abandon his car on the road. He asked me to tell you that he’d be in once he got his car towed to the garage.”

Catherine was seeing the handwriting on the wall now. No Rilke meant she had to go. Had to get Dante settled in herself. No more putting it off. “I don’t suppose he knows how long that will be.”

“He’s hoping within the next hour or two.”

Clinic policy was nagging at her now. This was an expensive facility, very small, very exclusive, with the best physicians and the best accommodations in the world. More like a resort than a medical treatment facility. People who paid to be here expected their doctor in attendance immediately. Dante wouldn’t be an exception. “Call the floor nurse and tell her I’ll be down to see Mr Baldassare in five minutes.” Five minutes, five hours, five years…it really didn’t matter. She had to do it. That’s all there was to it. Once, five years ago, she’d donned sturdy armor when she’d kicked Dante out of her life. Now she only hoped she had some of that armor left over, because one thing was certain. Dante Baldassare did know how to get to her. That was evidenced in the half-moons her fingernails had just dug into the palms of her hands when she thought about him.

“No, I don’t want to be here. Why the hell couldn’t I have just gone home, put my foot up and healed there?” Spent the mornings looking out the window and afternoons listening to Gianni learn to read. Not a bad way to pass the time during this imposed holiday, as he preferred to think of it.

“You know why, Dante,” Cristofor Baldassare said, tucking his brother’s suitcase into the closet. “Because you won’t heal there. You’ll find a way to do everything your doctors told you not to do, and injure yourself again. Again! Like you did last time you came home to recover. You’ve got a good chance to fully recuperate for the start of the next racing season if we let someone else take charge of you.”

He gave his older brother a toothy grin. Separated by fifteen years, with Dante the older at thirty-five, the two of them bore no family resemblance to each other. Dante’s classically handsome Italian looks, as well as his dark and brooding attitude, were in stark contrast to Cristofor’s sunny disposition, fair-skinned complexion and blond hair, a remnant of his great-grandmother’s Scandinavian blood. “And I’m not going to be the one to go against Papa on this, Dante. If you want to argue with him about checking out of here and going home, that’s fine, you can argue. But I’m staying out of it.” He threw his hands into the air in mock surrender. “Your decision entirely.”

Dante ran an irritated hand through his hair. Papa’s expectations and demands were a force to be reckoned with in the family, especially as his father wasn’t allowed to be as physically active since his heart attack, and right now he didn’t feel like reckoning with the man. Besides, he understood his father’s concern over his condition. One son already dead, and now another one seriously injured. As a father himself, he knew what his own parents were feeling. So, out of respect, he’d go along with this inconvenience for a while, stay here, take a rest, submit to physical therapy.

“OK, so I’ll let it go for now. You don’t have to go against Papa. But I’m not staying long. A week or two at the most, until I know what I need to do to get full movement back and build up my muscles. Then I’m coming home.” Two weeks without Gianni—it was already killing him.

Who’d have ever thought he could get so attached to another person? But Gianni was his heart and soul and the separation was pure torture.

“Let’s wait for a week or two before we make any decisions, OK?” Cristofor said.

“We? Since when is this a we decision? Have I ever let my baby brother make decisions for me?” Laughing, Dante picked up a spare pillow and lobbed it across the room at Cristofor.

“It became my decision when Papa told me to make sure you do what you’re told.” He caught the pillow and threw it back. “And I’m not about to cross him, Dante. He’s under too much stress already. He doesn’t need more.”

The pillow hit Dante square in the face, and he threw it right back, but Cristofor deflected it and it went sailing at the door just as the door opened and someone stepped in. A woman…a woman who wasn’t quick enough to avert the flying pillow. She took the hit square in the chest, then stepped back, shocked, not injured, clutching the pillow to herself.

Cristofor turned red-faced, while Dante wiped his eyes and forced himself to stop laughing. Then he turned to her to apologize. “I’m…” His voice broke, and he stopped. Swallowed. Drew in a deep breath. “Catherine?”

“Dante,” she said, without inflection.

Her voice was the same, yet different. Fuller. A little throatier. “What…? Um…I didn’t know you were here.” Her fixed stare on him was cool. Not friendly, not unfriendly. Not affected in any way, which surprised him because he remembered her eyes as warm, and the stare she’d always given him provocative. But not now. He stared for a moment, trying to find a bit of the old Catherine, but none of it was there. “I didn’t see your name on the literature.”

“My name is at the top of the literature, actually,” she said, dropping the pillow onto the plush easy chair by the door.

As if to prove her wrong, Dante grabbed up the packet of information he’d been given pre-admission, and took a look at the staff roster. But what he saw wasn’t Catherine Brannon. It was Dr Catherine Wilder. Which meant she’d gotten married. He hadn’t expected that. Of course, he didn’t have the right to that expectation, did he? Didn’t have the right to anything where Catherine was concerned. Not even to think of her.

Dante looked up at Catherine again. “I didn’t know.” And that was the truth. Sure, the fact that he’d be under the care of a rehab doctor by the name of Catherine had possibly persuaded him to choose this clinic over several others, for no particular reason other than a little sentimentality. Yet he’d had no reason to suspect that his Catherine would be the Catherine in the brochure. But, damn, if that hadn’t turned out to be, well, he wouldn’t go so far as to say good. Maybe interesting?

“And if you had known, would you have chosen Aeberhard?”

He was still surprised by the turn of events. “It’s the best in Europe, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” she answered, “it is.”

“Then I would have chosen it.” Easy to say, but he wasn’t sure. Catherine was good. He knew that. But having the doctor in charge of his medical care falling into the line of past lovers? Well, he’d expected to be bored out of his mind here but, if nothing else, the next couple of weeks should prove to be interesting.

“Small world, isn’t it?” she said, shifting a quick glance at Cristofor.

“Smaller than we’d ever guess,” Dante responded, also shifting his glance to Cristofor. “My brother,” he said, nodding in Cristofor’s direction. “Cristofor, this is Catherine Brann—Wilder. Dr Catherine Wilder. We were…colleagues, back in Boston.”

Cristofor looked first at Dante, then at Catherine. Then smiled. “He never told us he had such a beautiful colleague,” he replied, turning on his typical ladies’-man charm, something that had never, until that very moment, bothered Dante.

“And he never told me he had such a handsome brother,” she answered, duplicating Cristofor’s charm with a warm smile. “Or, actually, any living brother at all.”

Dante cleared his throat. “I don’t recall you ever asking.”

The warm smile she had for Cristofor went stone cold as she turned to Dante. “Even if I had, would you have told me? You weren’t exactly open about things, were you? Open, or honest?”

“Why do I get the feeling there’s more going on here than meets the eye?” Cristofor asked.

“The only thing going on here,” Catherine stated, “is that, as director of this clinic, I’ve come to welcome your brother to our facility and to help him get settled in and acclimated. It’s what I would do for any patient.” She was avoiding looking at Dante now, instead fixing her stare on his brother.

“Except I’m not just any patient, Catherine,” Dante said, drawing in a tense breath. “No matter how you want to frame it, you know I’m not!”

Cristofor took a long, hard look at the both of them and started to edge his way to the hall leading to the door.

“No,” Catherine admitted. “I don’t suppose you are just any patient.”

Dante eased out the breath he’d been holding. “Good, because I don’t want our past—”

“Our past is just that. Our past.”

“But you admitted I’m not just any patient.”

“You’re not. You’re a celebrity. You can afford our best suite. We’ve had celebrities before, and we have to take special precautions to keep their fawning public at bay. I’m sure it will be no different with you.”

Cristofor finally made it to the door, and as he slipped into the hall, he paused briefly. “Nice to meet you, Dr Wilder. I think I’ll leave you and Dante alone to settle this…whatever it is going on between you, and go find myself a cup of coffee.”

Before either Dante or Catherine could say a word, Cristofor was beating a hasty retreat down the hall, not even looking back.

“Looks like we scared him off,” Dante commented casually.

“Speak for yourself, Dante. You can read anything you want into this situation, but to me it’s strictly professional. I’m the doctor, you’re the patient. That’s all there is. We’ll heal your broken ankle and you’ll be gone. End of story.”

“Then sleeping together the way we did for all those months, and getting engaged, didn’t mean anything to you?” he challenged, not intending to be contentious as much as wanting to evoke something more than ice from Catherine.

She cocked her head, looking thoughtful for a moment. Then finally, she said, “That’s right. We did sleep together, didn’t we? I guess I’d forgotten about that part of my life.”

He opened his mouth to reply, then shut it, and simply smiled. Sizzling, red-headed temper. Beautiful fire in those green eyes. He’d never seen that in her before, but he had to admit, he liked it in her now.


“HE’S w-what?” Catherine sputtered, not sure she’d heard that right.

“He’s requested you to be his physician here. I went in to explain his therapy schedule to him and he said he wanted Doctor Wilder to oversee his therapy.” Dr Friedrich Rilke shrugged casually. “Sorry, Catherine, but we do always bow to our patients’ requests if at all possible or reasonable. Dr Aeberhard insisted on that when he ran the clinic and I’m sure he wouldn’t have that changed now that he’s stepped down from admin duties. Dante Baldassare specifically said he wants you to be his doctor in charge so, unless there’s a good reason for you not to be, I’m literally handing his chart back to you.” Which was what he did.

A good reason? Did she ever have a good reason! “I admitted him, Friedrich. Went down to greet him, said hello, gave him a five-minute explanation of how we do things here at Aeberhard, then left. That’s all there was to it. And I don’t want to be Mr Baldassare’s doctor. I don’t like him, I have a full schedule of other patients, and you’re much better with ankles than I am. I specialize in knees, for heaven’s sake. Did you explain that to him, that you’re the ankle specialist?”

“Explained it, and he wasn’t interested.”

“Do you think you could you talk him into using one of the other staff members?”

Rilke gave his head an adamant shake. “The man was damned insistent about wanting you. He made that perfectly clear, and he threatened to call Dr Aeberhard personally if we don’t grant his request.” He paused for a moment, looked thoughtful, then finally said what he seemed almost reluctant to say. “Is there something personal between the two of you? He seems almost… proprietorial. Well, maybe that’s not the best word to describe it, but he does act like he has some connection to you. And you’re protesting this whole situation much more than you should be.”

Dante being proprietorial after all these years. Now, wasn’t that funny? Like he had the right to be anything where she was concerned! “Maybe it’s because I was the first doctor he met here. Patients do become attached, you know.”

“After five minutes?” Friedrich shook his head. “I shouldn’t think so, but if that’s what it is, I’d call it more a fixation. And that still doesn’t explain your reaction, Catherine.”

“Not a fixation. We worked together briefly back in Boston, years ago. Didn’t get along then. But I suppose he’s requested me because he knows my qualifications better than he knows yours.” It sounded logical, although Friedrich’s eyes were squinting, indicating he still wasn’t convinced. “He’s a very controlling man…” To say the least!

“So, you worked together? How’s that? He’s a race driver.”

Catherine nodded. “He used to be a surgeon.” Odd, to say that. Used to be a surgeon. On the occasions she’d listened to sports reporters mentioning his name, even then the image of Dr Baldassare had not dissipated. Simply a case of her own stubborn mind not moving forward.

“That’s awesome. I didn’t know any of the Baldassares had done anything other than auto racing.”

“You’re a fan of the sport?” she asked, a little surprised by that.

He nodded. “And of the whole Baldassare family. They’re legends. One of the best race teams in the world. Dante’s so close to the title, and after Dario was killed…”

“Dario,” Catherine stated. She knew the story. Painful. Sad. Not much was ever said about him, and she understood that. She’d suffered her own losses, which was why she’d never asked questions. Dario Baldassare had died in a race in Spain several months before she’d met Dante, and that’s all she knew. Naturally, when Dante’s father had suffered a heart attack, and Dante had assumed the grief over Dario’s death to be a good part of the reason for it, she’d encouraged him to stay close to his family in Italy for as long as he was needed. That was all part of the story she knew. But the part she hadn’t expected had been the announcement she’d seen on a television sports program that her future husband would be staying there permanently and, on top of that, racing for the Baldassare team. That had been painful and sad, too. At least, for her.

Talented man…. men,” Friedrich said. “Both of them. Such a pity about what happened to Dario. He had the potential to become a legend in the sport. Although Dante is well on his way to accomplishing that himself. “

“I don’t like auto racing,” she said bluntly. “Not a thing about it.” Too many risks, and she hated risk-taking.

Friedrich shrugged. “Then I’d suggest you not mention that to Dante while you’re treating him, as he’s a world renowned figure in the sport.”

“I’m sorry he didn’t want you, Friedrich,” she said genuinely. “I’d honestly thought you’d pair up well as doctor and patient.” She meant that, too. Friedrich was excellent and he had a way about him that wouldn’t have let Dante bully him. But that wasn’t meant to be, she supposed.

He shrugged again. “You’ll do fine with him, but watch yourself, Catherine. He’s got a reputation, lucky man.” Friedrich gave a knowing wiggle to his eyebrows, leaving Catherine with no doubt about what the reputation was. She lived with it, after all. And once was enough.

“It won’t be long,” Dante assured Gianni. “And if you keep asking, maybe your grandfather will bring you here on a weekend holiday.” His father, Marco Baldassare, was a tough man. He ran one of the leading race teams in the world and expected strict obedience from his sons and daughters. Even after he’d cut back on his responsibilities, he still worked harder than most men. Tough as nails all the way round, yet when it came to his grandchildren, Marco was a pushover. A real softy. “Just give him a big hug, then ask him.”

“Can I stay with you?” Gianni asked. “I can sleep in a chair if there’s not another bed. Or on the floor.”

“No. This is a rehabilitation clinic. You can stay for a night or two, but that’s all they’ll allow.” Dante truly was sorry about that, too, because he would have loved having his son there with him, but Gianni was better off with his grandparents for the time being. Since he’d adopted his nephew, they hadn’t spent too many nights apart, and Dante counted on that stability in his son’s otherwise hectic life. Marco and Rosa Baldassare were the stability the boy needed right now.

“Couldn’t you rest at home?” Gianni whined. “I can help you walk on your broken foot. Help you use your cane, and get things for you when you don’t feel like walking.”

“Can’t rest at home, not the way I’m supposed to. And they have things here that will help my foot feel better.”

“Maybe Papa Marco will bring me this weekend!”

“Maybe he will.”

Dante and Gianni talked another few minutes, mostly about school work and new friends Gianni was making now that he was living with Papa Marco and Mama Rosa. When the phone conversation was over, Dante clutched the phone receiver another minute, like holding it kept him closer to his son.

He hadn’t expected to keep Gianni permanently. After Dario’s death, Gianni had gone immediately to live with his grandparents, Marco and Rosa, and no one had questioned that. Then, after Marco’s heart attack, Dante had agreed to keep the boy for a while. A few weeks at the most, while Papa Marco had been recovering and Mama Rosa taking care of him. There had never been any talk that Dante would become a full-time parent then, all of a sudden, he had been. It had been a letter from Dario, something that had been misplaced after he’d been killed. In it had been a heartfelt and sad plea from a lonely man who’d just lost his wife, desperately begging his twin to raise his son in the event anything ever happened to him.

So, how could he not? It was his duty to honor his brother’s wish but, more than that, it was what he’d wanted to do. Of course, his own parents had expected to raise their grandson, but they had been good about respecting Dario’s wishes. And, Dante suspected, a little relieved, considering Papa Marco’s new, more delicate condition.

Of course, wanting to raise Gianni and actually doing it had been two different things. His life had been unsettled. At the time he’d wanted to go back to medicine, and had fully intended to. Yet he had been pulled back more and more into the family operation, feeling pressure to step back into a race car and, once again, put the name Baldassare back on the track. With all that going on, then adopting Gianni, it had been a difficult time all the way round. A boy Gianni’s age needed a home and stability, which he hadn’t had to offer. No stability, no parenting skills.

No Catherine, either. And that was the biggest change of all in his life. He understood why she was having such a tough time with what he was doing. His sister jumped the gun on the announcement that he was returning to racing, giving it to the press before he’d made up his mind. Probably a little bit of Papa Marco’s persuasion, he suspected. But what that did was, essentially, to slap Catherine in the face with plans she knew nothing about. So he truly did understand her feelings over that.

He apologized for that gaffe over and over, and believed she’d get over the hurt, and be agreeable. He never, ever considered that she would end the relationship all because he was thinking about racing again.

But she hated racing, and she made that perfectly clear.

Well, she’d made her choice, and after she’d ended their relationship, he’d made his, which was to stay in Italy to keep Gianni closer to the whole family. The boy needed all that support after what he’d been through and, to be honest, so did he. Especially with practically everything in his life going crazy.

Dante did love racing, and he’d been good at it earlier in his life, which was why he ultimately made the decision to return to the sport. Years earlier there’d been reports of a bright future for him in it, yet he loved medicine, and leaving it behind, like he was doing with his plans and dreams for a life with Catherine, wasn’t easy. It was a sound choice based on his situation, though. Gianni needed the whole family structure around him, and the Baldassare team needed a Baldassare on the track to maintain its prestige in the racing world. The enterprise supported a lot of people, and at present he was the only Baldassare qualified to race. So the responsibility fell to him to be both father and race-car driver, and he took both of them seriously.

It had been five years since all that emotional strife, and life was turning out to be pretty good. He had his racing, he had Gianni. And the Baldassare racing team was on top, right where they belonged.

Except now he also had this wretched broken ankle being treated by Catherine, of all people, which was a bit of a hitch. He’d get over that, though. In a week or two he’d be back to normal. But in the meantime he could deal with Catherine. In fact, he looked forward to dealing with her. Maybe taunting her a little. Showing her what she’d given up. What she had tossed out of her life.

Catherine…She did look well, didn’t she? Better than well, actually. He liked her hair longer, hanging to her shoulders the way it was now. It made her look…soft. Her curves were as good as ever, although he doubted she ever took off her white lab coat to show them off, which was a pity because she’d always been a feast for a man’s eyes.

Her husband’s eyes now. Sobering thought. And from the look of the sobering little frown lines setting in around her eyes, he wondered if all that conjugal bliss wasn’t agreeing with her as well as it should.

Dante glanced down, discovered he was still hanging onto the phone, and finally hung up. Then he gave the blankets a toss and scooted himself to the edge of the bed, fully intent on maneuvering himself into the wheelchair sitting right there waiting for him. It was time to get out of this suite and have a look around. Maybe find Catherine. And do what? He didn’t know. They’d had their final arguments years ago, and there was nothing more to say. Or was there? Maybe he just needed to prove a point, to let her know that he’d had a great life without her. A little get-even attitude popping up? He didn’t really think of himself as the vindictive sort, but maybe he was, at least where Catherine was concerned, as she’d had the very last word on the death of their relationship, leaving him with nothing to say.

He chuckled. Maybe forcing her to be his doctor was the last word he’d been denied all those years ago.

Only thing was, in his intention to go and see Catherine, the transfer from his bed to the wheelchair turned into something a little more daunting than he’d thought, and once he’d managed to pull the chair up next to the bed, he really wasn’t sure he wanted to risk the move into it. Not without some stout help who would make sure he didn’t transfer himself straight to the floor and another ankle injury.

Irritated with his incapacity, Dante dropped back into his bed and stared up at the ceiling. He wanted to get out of there. Wanted to get the hell out of there. Wanted to get away from Catherine, forget about her again, go back to his real life. Him and Gianni. And his family. No one else!

“Going somewhere?” Catherine asked, stepping between the wheelchair and the bed.

Dante opened his eyes slowly. “Is that meant to be funny?” he snapped. “You know damned well I can’t go anywhere.”

“Another good mood, I see. Is that the way you’re going to act the whole time you’re here?”

“Aren’t doctors supposed to be compassionate?” he cracked back. “Have a pleasant bedside manner?”

“Ask yourself that question, Dante. You used to be one, didn’t you?” She dropped the clipboard holding Dante’s medical notes onto the table by the bed then moved the wheelchair closer.

“Now what?” he grumbled.

“X-ray. I want to see what I’ll be working with. Other than a grumpy patient.”

He heaved an impatient sigh, one clearly meant to be heard. “Maybe I should have let that other doctor work on me. You know, the one who wanted an autograph for every member of his family—all seventy-seven of them.”

Catherine laughed. That did sound like Friedrich. “He’s a fan,” she said, her voice finally softening. “Probably knows more about you than you do.”

“Fans to do that.”

“And you like having fans?” she asked. “I always thought you were a private person.”

“Fans are a necessary part of the job.” He sat back up. “You can’t get away from it. You take a job where the public gets involved in some manner, and that’s what happens.” Then he looked at the wheelchair again. “Do you expect me to get into that all by myself?”

She shook her head. “As much as it might do my heart good to see you fall flat on your face, I do have one of the physical therapists on his way to teach you how to do it on your own. You should have it down by this afternoon, then I’ll give you your daily schedule.”

“My daily schedule?”

“Therapy, regular exercise, meals. Times available to you for things like the hair salon, the spa…”

“Excuse me, but I came here to recover from an accident, and to have therapy.”

“Which is what will happen in due course.”

“But all the other things…that’s wasting my time.”

“Didn’t you read the brochures, Dante? We have a fully integrated treatment plan here. You know—mind, body, spirit.” Her mouth twisted into a devilish grin. “We’ll even do skin exfoliation if you need it.”

“Except I don’t need my skin exfoliated,” he snapped. “Don’t need spiritual enlightening or anything else that’s not about my ankle. What I want, all Iwant, is to get myself over this, and get to the place where I can take care of myself at home. I’m not here on a holiday and, quite frankly, Catherine, I’m surprised you’d even subscribe to this kind of frou-frou medicine. Back in Boston—”

“Back in Boston was another lifetime, Dante. Things change. People change. Relationships change.”

“I thought you were a better doctor than that,” he retorted.

“Once upon a time I thought you were better, too. But we all make mistakes.” She stepped aside as the therapist, Hans Bertschinger, came into the room, and she stayed there while Hans started the first instruction on how to get from the bed to the wheelchair. Watching Dante swing his good leg over the edge of the bed, Catherine noticed his hideous hospital gown creep up, and didn’t avert her eyes quickly enough to keep from seeing a generous portion of his leg and thigh. Nice, muscular. She did remember how he’d always been in good shape. Sexy, provocative body. She’d memorized every inch of it and never forgotten.

Before the blush set in, she turned away. “Order him pajamas with pants from the gift boutique!” she instructed Hans, then left the room. Once she was in the hall, she drew in a stiff, deep breath, hoping it would combat her wobbly legs, then she teetered her way back to her office.

This wouldn’t do. These feelings, these memories…wouldn’t do at all. “Get Dr Aeberhard on the phone for me, will you?” she asked Marianne.

Time for a holiday. She’d been here well over a year now, without a single day off. Surely Max would grant her a few days away. While he didn’t oversee the medical end of the clinic, he did still run the business aspects, and her taking a holiday was definitely a business aspect. But she needed a few days to go and hide somewhere, and figure out what to do. Figure out how to avoid Dante. How to avoid even thinking about him.

“I know you haven’t had a day off, and it’s a very reasonable request. Just not right now, Catherine. I’m sorry. If you’d asked a month ago, or a week ago…” He shrugged. “You deserve the time off, and I don’t begrudge you a nice holiday, but Aeberhard Clinic needs you here at the moment.”

Dr Max Aeberhard—jolly, plump, lots of white hair, white beard down his chest, walked with a slight limp, always a smile on his face. She adored the man, both as a friend and mentor. She’d called him, and he’d come running. He always did. In semi-retirement now, Max still took a few patients for consultation, as well as overseeing the business side. Of course, his version of semi-retired ran circles around most people’s version of full-time employed. The man loved his clinic, loved his patients, and he would never completely retire from any of it. It was as much a part of him as was that twinkle in his blue eyes.

“Just a couple of days, Max. That’s all I need.” It was pointless arguing with him. Max was a kindly man, but once he set his mind to something, it couldn’t be budged. She wasn’t going to get her holiday. No time away from Dante, not even a few days to collect her wits. In fact, it was because of Dante that she had to stay.

“Do you know how many enquiries I’ve had already regarding having Dante Baldassare as a patient here?”

Not as many as she’d had. Worldwide sports journalists had been calling almost from the moment Dante had arrived. They wanted interviews, pictures. They wanted to know more about the clinic. At the very least, all the publicity was going to throw the clinic into the center of attention for a little while. She realized that. And didn’t want to be a part of it—not on Dante’s account, anyway. “We can ignore them. I’ve already instructed the staff not to mingle with anyone from the media, not to grant interviews, pose for pictures, get caught where any patient or clinic information might be revealed. And I’ve doubled security on the grounds. As far as I’m concerned, we’re braced for just about anything, and if there is a need to give an official statement to anyone, in all reality you should be the one. So everything’s taken care of and I truly don’t need to be here.” Good argument, but she wasn’t going to win it.

Max chuckled, his beard bobbing up and down. “Maybe it’s taken care of, from your perspective anyway, but they won’t ignore us, Catherine. Mr Baldassare has a following all over the world, and all that’s come knocking on our door for the duration of his stay. The people outside aren’t going to be content to walk away without something. We’re small, and we need you here to make sure we keep our medical focus.”

“Then maybe we should find him another clinic, one that’s better prepared to cope with his celebrity. The one in Toronto deals a lot with celebrities, doesn’t it? And they have a good reputation. I might even know the medical director…”

“This isn’t like you, Catherine, backing down from a challenge. Even running away from it. Is there something you’d like to tell me?”

“I’d like to tell you that I’m tired, and I need a short holiday. But I suppose I needn’t bother.”

“When he’s gone and things are back to normal, you can have all the time you need. Even enough for a trip back to the States to visit your family and friends, if that’s what you’d like to do. But right now I need you to deal with what’s happening here.”

So she would stay. But when Dante was gone, would things really go back to normal, as Max thought they would? Or would their new-found celebrity status change matters? New recognition, more demand, maybe even the opportunity to expand as they’d talked about. Catherine wondered about all that for a moment, not unhappy about the prospects that Dante’s fame might bring. Perhaps him coming here might count for something after all. At least, that’s what she wanted to tell herself. “Fine, when he’s gone I’ll take my holiday. But I think that since he’s so famous, you should be the one assigned to his care. It’s your clinic, your reputation, your good name…”

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to avoid the man.” He arched his bushy white eyebrows. “Eh?”

“OK, so I used to know him. A long time ago. And I don’t think it’s good form to treat an old…acquaintance.”

“Except your old acquaintance requested you specifically, so I’ve been told. I think we should honor his request, don’t you? After all, the goal of Aeberhard Clinic is to accommodate its guests.”

“And I think we should maintain a professional appearance here and take me off his case. I’m not comfortable…”

“Not comfortable giving the patient what he wants? Or needs?” Max shook his head and clucked his tongue. “This isn’t sounding at all like you, Catherine. Not at all. And don’t give me the excuse that you’re tired, because that’s not what this is about.”

She liked Max. Actually, in the short time she’d known him, she’d come to love the man like a father. In fact, years ago, when she had still been a medical intern, she’d moved heaven and earth to get to one of his symposiums. Dr Maximilian Aeberhard had been the best rehabilitation specialist in the world, and the instant she’d learned he was coming to Boston she’d finagled a spot in to hear him lecture. doctors from all over North America had been there, and she, a lowly intern, hadn’t been granted admittance. So she’d volunteered to be an usher that day, to escort other doctors to their seats. In exchange, she’d tucked herself into a nook at the back of the lecture hall and listened to the most brilliant doctor she’d ever heard.

Amazingly, she’d bumped into him in the elevator later on that day and, for whatever reason the gods had ordained, had been fortunate enough to take tea with him. Then they’d shared an evening meal at his invitation. The gods smiling on her again. After that she’d read everything he’d ever published, practically memorized every text he’d written, and eventually settled into a medical practice chocked full of Max Aeberhard teachings. Life had been good, she’d been advancing. All of a sudden, out of the blue, she’d received an invitation to come to Bern to be interviewed for a post at the Aeberhard Clinic.

Naturally, chances like that didn’t come up every day. Didn’t happen in most lifetimes. In fact, she’d firmly convinced herself it was some kind of a mistake until the day Max’s secretary had called to confirm her appointment. Then she’d had to pinch herself over and over to make sure it wasn’t a dream.

She’d come for that interview, of course, not even knowing or caring what kind of post it was. To be honest, she’d have been happy ironing his surgical scrubs, if that had been the position being offered, because it would have put her closer to the man she idolized. But as it had turned out, the post had been Max replacing himself as medical director in order to cut back on a few of his duties—a position for which she’d had absolutely no qualifications whatsoever. She’d walked away dejected and somewhat mystified that she’d received the invitation. By the time she’d returned to her room at the hotel, she’d convinced herself the invitation had been a mistake and Max’s interview merely a polite formality on the way to rejecting her. But then the phone call had come. He’d invited her to supper, and that’s when he’d made the offer.

Since then she’d asked him at least a dozen times, why her? Why not someone with more experience, more administrative qualifications, someone already working at the clinic who was familiar with its procedures? Dr Rilke would have been brilliant! All she’d ever got out of him, though, had been that he preferred to keep his reasons to himself. So she’d never pursued it any further.

Yet here she was. Medical Director of the Aeberhard Clinic. Living a dream. And the best part was that while Max had turned into a good-hearted mentor, he really did let her supervise the medical practice with almost no interference. It was still his clinic, though. No mistaking that. Otherwise she’d have written herself off the roster for a few days, made arrangements to be replaced, and gone away. Or, more like, run away.

“Did you know that Dante is a surgeon?” Five years out of practice maybe, but that didn’t take away his license. He still had claim to the title and, somehow, she still had a hard time seeing Dante as anything but a surgeon. And a very good one at that.

Max shook his head.

“We were medical colleagues. Had some…differences. I’m not sure I can be objective in his care.”

“And you’re not going to tell me about these differences?”

She shook her head. “Nothing important.” To Dante, anyway.

“Well, something suggests they weren’t professional. But I’m not going to pry into your affairs, Catherine.”

She shot him a caustic glance, but didn’t reply. Didn’t have to. The grin concealed under that beard told the story. Wily old Max Aeberhard knew everything. Or had a keen suspicion. Damn it! She hated being so transparent. “So no holiday? And I don’t get to get off his case?”

“That about sums it up.”

Catherine thought about it for a moment, then frowned. “I’ll accept that. But if I come to you, Max, and tell you that for the good of my patient, or the clinic, or my own personal sanity, you absolutely need to pull me off Dante’s case and let someone else take over, I expect you to do that.”

Max stood, adjusted the suspenders holding up his brown tweed trousers and headed for the door. “I’ll accept that, Catherine.” Then he gave her a wink. “But I think you need to do some soul-searching over someone who has you so bothered.” As he passed her he gave her an affectionate squeeze to the shoulder, then he was gone.

And she was definitely bothered.

It was late morning before Catherine returned to Dante’s room. Hans called and reported that Dante was doing fine, transferring himself into his wheelchair, so now it was time to have a look at what was going on with Dante’s ankle. He’d had surgery too many times. Had pins put in. Muscle repaired. Tendons sewn back together. A real mess, and the man wanted to get out of there and drive again. He’d be lucky to walk out without drastic assistance.

“I’m going to X-ray, then I’ll be taking Dant—Mr Baldassare on the grand tour,” she reported to Marianne on her way out. “Screen my calls, will you? If they’re medical, forward them to my cellphone. If they’re anything else, take a message.”

“I’ve had five in the past hour, requesting—”

“I know. An interview with Mr Baldassare.”

Marianne nodded eagerly. “He is so handsome, don’t you think?”

To a dreamy-eyed girl in her early twenties, like Marianne, of course Dante was handsome. She’d been that girl not so long ago. A little older perhaps, but still with the same dreamy-eyed feelings. No doubt there’d been a good many of them since her. More than she’d seen in those photos at various times. Apparently, there’d been a good many before her, too.

“He’s a patient.” Catherine struggled not to sound too affected. “I don’t notice handsome on patients. It’s not appropriate.” Such a huge lie where Dante was concerned. She only hoped Marianne didn’t see the look in her eyes. Dauncy, her mother called it. Youlie to me, Catherine, and I can always tell. You get that dauncy look in your eyes. Catherine blinked twice on her way out the door just to make sure anything dauncy that might be there was washed away.

Dante was actually sitting up in his wheelchair when she entered his room. Wearing pajamas. A richly embroidered silk robe covered them. Not at all Dante, she thought. He slept in the nude, put on a T-shirt to be modest. No pants. Never covered his splendid backside with anything. How many mornings had she awakened with a good dose of Dante padding across the carpet, her stare fixed on that backside? That, along with a cup of coffee, had been the perfect way to start the day, especially when he’d come back to bed to take care of the mood he’d always put her in.

There she went again! Just one look and she was off on another fantasy. Which she could ill afford, and didn’t want happening.

“You look like you’ve seen something awfully pleasant,” he commented. “Anything I might want to know about?”

“Don’t mistake my bedside manner for anything personal,” she warned, trying to sound professional when her skipping heart was anything but. “I’m always pleasant with my patients.”

“Except me.”

“You can certainly request another doctor, if you’re not happy with me. The owner of the clinic himself is available. He’s the finest rehabilitation specialist in the world, a very pleasant man, and I’m sure he’d be able to fit you into his schedule.”

“When did you become so uptight, Catherine? You used to have a spark about you. An eager optimism. You always smiled, yet I haven’t seen you smile since I’ve been here, and that’s a pity with your beautiful smile.”

“You haven’t earned the right to comment on my smile, Dante.” Her voice was so chilly it swept out of her on shards of ice. “Or anything else about me except my professional abilities.”

Naturally, he commented on that. “See what I mean? You’re uptight. Stiff. You don’t find any pleasure in your life, and it’s going to make you very old, very fast.”

“You don’t know me well enough any more to say those things.” Catherine stepped in behind the wheelchair, giving it a sharp nudge towards the door. “We had six months together, and in those months we never even…” Got to know each other. Got to be honest. “We were merely satisfying certain biological urges for a short period of time, and that’s all there was to it. We mistook hormones for emotions and thought that was enough to make a marriage.”

Dante laughed. “Hormones aren’t necessarily a bad way to start a marriage.”

“I’m not surprised you’d think that.” Although, with the chemistry they’d had between them, he wasn’t altogether wrong.

“Do you ever think about us, Catherine? Over the years, have you ever wondered what it might have been like if things had worked out differently?”

She had, on so many occasions. But she wouldn’t tell Dante that. “No. When it was over, I moved on.” Like he had, only he’d moved on even before it had been over. “No point in lingering over something that wasn’t meant to be.”

“Was I that despicable a lover?” he asked. “I thought I satisfied you, gave you what you wanted. I thought we were good together.”

“In bed, we were fine. You were fine. I had no complaints that way.” Just as they reached the hallway door, Catherine stopped pushing the wheelchair and spun it part way around to face her. Then she bent down to him. “But sex is all it was. Something convenient in two hectic lives. It happened, it ended. We’ve moved on. So, please, be enough of a gentleman to let it go. That will make your stay here much easier…on both of us.”

“I never meant to hurt you, Catherine,” he said, his voice suddenly dropping to a whisper. “I told you that every time I called. What happened to me wasn’t what I’d expected in my life. It was a difficult time.”

“Was it, Dante? Was it really?”

Briefly, he looked at a loss, but that passed all too quickly. “You don’t know a damned thing about it!”

“Don’t I? Because what I seem to recall is that you left medicine and became a race-car driver. People don’t just do something like that, Dante. You know, go to medical school all those years, become a surgeon, then drop all that to spend your life driving around a race track. And, oh, by the way, forget to mention that to the person they intend marrying.”

“And I did apologize for that. Besides, it’s not like you didn’t know my family was in racing. That I’d had a brief try at it when I was younger.”

“And your brother was better, but that was fine with you because your true passion was medicine. You told me all that, Dante. Silly me, I believed it.”

“My father needed me. My family needed me.”

“They needed you to make a worldwide announcement that you were returning to the sport before you even mentioned it to the woman who thought she was marrying a doctor? Or were you ever really planning on marrying me? Maybe that was just another of those conveniences we had, something to make us feel a little more proper about our relationship?”

“I told you—”

“What you told me, Dante, was that you had to race. That was it. No alternatives in there for me.”

“My father was sick, Dario was gone, the entire Baldassare racing team was struggling. At the time I was barely able to get through it, and I coped the only way I knew how. I didn’t mean to hurt you, Catherine, but I’m not going to apologize any more because it’s wasted on you.”

“Yes, it is wasted because while maybe you didn’t mean to hurt me, you also didn’t mean to think about me through all of it. You left me out, Dante. Totally out. But so you’ll know, I wasn’t hurt.” Such a lie, and she knew, full well, that dauncy look was creeping into her eyes again. “Just a little disappointed, but I got over it.”

“Yes, you did, didn’t you? You went on and found yourself a magnificent life. You’ve done well for yourself, and I’m not surprised about that. You were…are…a brilliant doctor. I’m happy you got the life you deserved.”

What was there to say about that? Nothing to argue, nothing to snap at. This was a bit of the old Dante, the one she’d never been able to resist, never been able to stay angry with for more than ten seconds. Damn it all, she still wanted to be angry. Wanted to snap at him, to argue with every little thing he said. But he’d just disarmed her, something he’d always been so brilliant at doing. He’d say something like he just had then they’d tumble into bed and…

Catherine cleared her throat. “I need a fresh look at your ankle, Dante. There’s a reason why you’re not healing as you should, a reason why you’re still having so much pain. The old X-rays your doctor in Tuscany sent didn’t show anything so I need a new look. With any luck I’ll figure out what’s going on, and by end of the day have you on a real road to recovery.” Then out her door, and out of her life. Again. But for good this time.


“AND the last room on the tour is the solarium.” The doors into the room opened automatically, and they entered. Catherine brought Dante’s wheelchair to a stop at a mosaic-topped table near the south-facing window, one that overlooked the craggy landscape outside.

While Aeberhard Clinic claimed Bern as its official address, it was actually situated outside the bustling, old-world city, in the Bernese Oberland, a lush area of Swiss lowlands, alpine foothills and alpine massif. Aeberhard Clinic was actually close to the massif, for which Catherine was grateful, as she particularly loved this view of it with its vast mountains, accented with cliffs and various rocky shelves.

It was especially a treat for her to get lost in the view of the great spires and turrets jutting up from Deuschler Castle, visible on a cliff in the distance. A small castle as castles went, it was still a private residence, she’d heard, as were many of the other castles dotting the countryside.

Now, with the snow settling in for the season, it was all a breathtaking fairyland. But it was also close to the time of year that so many of the ski injuries they would eventually treat would come in. She wasn’t going to think about that yet, however. It was still early in the season and the skiers wouldn’t be out for a while.

As she maneuvered Dante’s wheelchair so he could feast on the magnificent view that she herself tried to find time to enjoy at least once a day, Catherine noticed he wasn’t even looking outside. Rather, his gaze was fixed on the tile floor, his face twisted into a dispiriting scowl. Dante was worried about his condition, she guessed, as well he should be. He’d been that way throughout the tour of the entire facility, pretending interest but, in actuality, far away. Nothing she’d said had really snapped him out of it, and it was crossing her mind now that if this had been his normal state since his accident, he might well need attention for that, too. Somehow, though, she couldn’t see Dante giving in to depression. He was too strong-minded, too demanding of himself to stray off course.

But she hadn’t known him for a very long time now, had she? Things did change with people. She was a walking, breathing testimony to that! “We serve tea in the solarium every afternoon,” she said, taking her place next to him at the table. “It’s not required, of course, but we do like to give our guests a chance to unwind after the day and indulge in something that’s more traditional than medical. It works wonders for the psyche.”

“Guests? Psyche?” he snapped suddenly. “For God’s sake, Catherine. I’ve listened, ad nauseam, to your memorized speech about Aeberhard for the past hour. The spa, the pool, the hair salon, the gift shop, the catered menu, room service…If I’d wanted to go to a resort in Bern, I’d have checked myself into the hotel at Giessbachfälle. It’s larger, the amenities better and the beds more comfortable. But I’m not looking for a hotel!”

Not what she’d hoped for, but at least he was talking. It was a start. “Do you take antidepressants?” she asked, the way any good doctor would.

“You know better than that!”

“Actually, no, I don’t. In the scheme of things, Dante, I know nothing at all about you except what I’m seeing right now, which is a drastic mood swing.” She did know a little bit from the news accounts she’d read over the years, too. “So I’m obligated to ask you, do you take antidepressants or any other kind of medication that could bring about mood swings or personality changes?”

He finally looked at her, made direct eye contact, and stared, unblinking, for several seconds before he answered. “I don’t take antidepressants,” he answered, his voice totally void of expression. “Neither do I take pain medications of any sort, or anything else that might be addictive. I take vitamins, an assortment of essential minerals, and an occasional antacid before a race. I don’t consume alcohol, don’t use tobacco, don’t eat fried foods. Anything else you’d like to know, Doctor?”

He was so defiant, so angry. Perhaps he’d have been better off going somewhere else, somewhere without the obvious emotional friction she seemed to be causing. That was her concern as a doctor coming out, of course, and not her personal need to be rid of him. “You don’t have to stay here, and maybe it would be better if you didn’t. I’ll be glad to make arrangements to have you taken to another facility. There’s an excellent clinic in Frankfurt, which isn’t so far away, and we have a reciprocal arrangement with them.”

“And I could have gone there, had I not chosen Aeberhard. But I wanted Aeberhard initially, and I’ll stay here.”

“Exactly why did you choose Aeberhard, Dante?” Catherine asked.

“You think it’s because of you?”

“It’s an odd coincidence so, yes, that did cross my mind.”

He shook his head. “Reputation. That’s all. You put skiers back into shape all the time. Do a nice job of it, actually. My injury is like what a skier might sustain. Also, this is closer to my home than any of the other places, so it made perfect sense for me to come here. At the time!

Meaning that now, at this time, it didn’t. Well, he was right about that. It didn’t make sense to her, either. But what made even less sense was his insistence on staying. Too much water had flowed under the bridge for this to be anything but uncomfortable.

Catherine turned her focus to the castle in the distance, rather than staring back at Dante. His scrutiny made her nervous. It was like he was trying to read something in her, trying to probe deeper than he had a right to. Breaking the contact of his stare might make that jittery feeling skittering through her right now stop. “Just so you know, your X-rays are fine. Nothing out of the ordinary, which is why I called your previous doctor, to see what was going on. He told me you haven’t been the model patient in the past two clinics you’ve been in. You checked out early, went home, injured yourself again. Both times. They didn’t want you back. Both times.”

A slight smile cracked his face, a smile barely noticeable on his lips but quite apparent in his eyes. If she’d been looking. Which she was not. “And I didn’t want to go back. Both times. Simple as that.”

“With you it’s never as simple as that. You always had an agenda, Dante. I can’t imagine that has changed. In fact, I’m curious about your agenda in demanding that I be your physician. My guess is you mean to harass me because Friedrich Rilke is brilliant, and anybody with an ankle injury should want him rather than me, as that’s his specialty. Then there’s Dr Aeberhard, the best in the world. Yet you insist on me, which sounds like an agenda, as your choice goes against common sense.”

“My choice sounds like a patient exerting a measure of control over his treatment. I always advocated that, Catherine. Always insisted that the doctor be a partner to the patient, not a medical dictator. That’s the way the best medicine should work.”

She twisted to look at him and noticed that his eyes sparked for a moment. It had happened before, when he’d mentioned medicine. Did Dante miss it? “You’re suggesting that we be partners. But shouldn’t partners get along?”

“I recall a time when we did.” His tone lost its sharp edge for a instant. “And don’t dismiss your abilities. You’re good. I trust you to do what’s best in my medical care.”

“Oh, I don’t dismiss my abilities, Dante. But you’d still be better off with Friedrich. If my ankle needed mending, he’s the only one I’d go to.” Catherine’s voice was stiff. Dante couldn’t help but hear the discomfort there because she could hear it herself.

“I’d be better off with the partner I choose, and I choose you. Like I said before, it’s as simple as that.”

“And like I said before, nothing’s that simple with you, Dante.” Their gazes drifted together for a moment, stayed fixed for a short time before both of them glanced away.

“Why the resort atmosphere, Catherine? And why would you choose to practice this kind of medicine? You were always so traditional.”

“Dr Aeberhard, the founder of the clinic, believes that true healing has as much to do with non-medical issues as it does medical ones. He believes that a comfortable resort atmosphere is better suited to rehabilitation medicine than a hospital atmosphere would be.”

“Do you?”

She finally turned to face him fully, surprised that all the edge and anger was gone from his voice. His scowl had vanished too, and the man sitting there, looking at her, was…Dante. Simply Dante, being interested in medicine the way he’d once been. “Actually, yes, I do. Back in Boston, when we…when I was doing my residency, then later, when I took my first real position, it was in a typical rehab hospital facility. Looked like a hospital, smelt like a hospital, functioned like a hospital, with all the regular hospital accouterments. We had good results, but there didn’t seem to be anything spectacular happening. People came in broken, went out fixed. You know, typical course of treatment. When I arrived here, at Aeberhard, it was very different. People were happy. They recovered more quickly. In my opinion, a good many of the recoveries seemed more complete, and I knew there had to be a correlation between Dr Aeberhard’s philosophies and the results I was seeing. It was exciting, Dante. This was a whole new medical concept for me, and I fell in love with it.”

“You look happy,” he said, actually sounding pleased about it.

“I am. It’s a perfect situation for me.” Had Dante found his perfect situation in auto racing? Judging from the way he acted, from all the stress she saw on his face and strain she heard in his voice, it didn’t seem so. Of course, there might be other issues pressing on him…such as his child. Or a woman…a wife. “Look, Dante, your healing seems to be right on course. And you’re lucky, considering that you’ve reinjured yourself since the initial injury and surgery. So the problem is just the healing process, which you seem to undermine.”

He shifted his gaze off her to the outside. And straightened his shoulders. “Unfortunate accident.”

“Remember, I talked to your other doctor,” she said, her voice gentle. “I do know what happened. You went home too early, did too many things he’d told you not to do. It’s not easy being laid up the way you are, and I understand that. But you can’t keep going against medical advice.”

“Just one person’s opinion.”

“Two, actually. Two very good surgeons—the original one who repaired you and the one who repaired you after you reinjured yourself. Both dismissed you as a patient when you went against their orders.” A symptom of his fast lifestyle? Fast cars, fast women? Did he think he was impervious to the inevitable repercussions?

Her father had thought that, and it had gotten him killed.

“It was taking too long. I should have been up and about much sooner. They weren’t pushing me hard enough, and I don’t have months and months to spend on recovery. I need it…faster.”

“Is that a medical diagnosis?” she asked. “Because, as I recall, you were a general surgeon, not an orthopedic or rehabilitation specialist.”

“You know what they say…that doctors make the worst patients.”

“Except you’re a race-car driver who’s on the verge of losing a career if he doesn’t follow his doctor’s orders. It’s just that critical now. If you injure yourself again, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever walk normally, Dante. More than that, you might lose your ability to drive competitively. And while I’m not going so far as to say these were self-inflicted injuries, they were caused because you didn’t listen. Or you thought you knew more than your doctors did.”

“They wanted me flat in bed, or in a wheelchair, for a ridiculous amount of time. I don’t have time for that.”

“So let me guess. You got up, went home, resumed normal activities immediately…”

“An entire week after surgery. They replace hips and send patients home, walking, in three days.”

“And a shattered ankle repair is far more complicated than a total hip replacement.” Catherine sighed impatiently. “You’re the patient here, Dante. Not the doctor. You’re going to have to act like a patient if you expect us to do our best work.”

“I thought I was the guest.”

In spite of herself, Catherine laughed. “Were you always this contentious?”

He chuckled, then smiled. “That was one of the things that attracted you to me. You even said so on a few occasions. I believe you said you liked your men with some backbone.”

“Well, if I did, then I was blinded by…other things.” She bit back a smile of her own. “Because it’s not a very attractive feature on you now.” That was a lie, actually. Before, she’d never argued back with him. But now she liked the little tingle that arguing with Dante caused. Although he didn’t need to know that.

“Or you’re not admitting it. You do have the side of you that tends to hold things back, or see them the way you think they should be. I’m willing to bet that hasn’t changed.”

Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Получить полную версию книги.

Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес».

Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/dianne-drake/italian-doctor-full-time-father-42437474/) на ЛитРес.

Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.

Enter into the world of high-flying Doctors as they navigate the pressures of modern medicine and find escape, passion, comfort and love – in each other’s arms!Dante has never shied away from a challengeDr Catherine Brannon knows her cool reserve will be tested by her new patient, surgeon-turned-racing-driver Dante Baldassare – her ex-fiancé! Dante the sports star, reputed to enjoy fast cars and fast women, she’ll keep at arm’s length. But Dante the father, devoted to a small boy, is a different story indeed… Family means everything to Dante – which is why he lost Catherine and became a single dad to his orphaned nephew. Despite their past, passion sizzles between them, and Dante realises they have something too precious to lose again.If this is a second chance, he’ll stop at nothing to win Catherine’s love…Mediterranean Doctors – Passionate about life, love and medicine.

Как скачать книгу - "Italian Doctor, Full-time Father" в fb2, ePub, txt и других форматах?

  1. Нажмите на кнопку "полная версия" справа от обложки книги на версии сайта для ПК или под обложкой на мобюильной версии сайта
    Полная версия книги
  2. Купите книгу на литресе по кнопке со скриншота
    Пример кнопки для покупки книги
    Если книга "Italian Doctor, Full-time Father" доступна в бесплатно то будет вот такая кнопка
    Пример кнопки, если книга бесплатная
  3. Выполните вход в личный кабинет на сайте ЛитРес с вашим логином и паролем.
  4. В правом верхнем углу сайта нажмите «Мои книги» и перейдите в подраздел «Мои».
  5. Нажмите на обложку книги -"Italian Doctor, Full-time Father", чтобы скачать книгу для телефона или на ПК.
    Аудиокнига - «Italian Doctor, Full-time Father»
  6. В разделе «Скачать в виде файла» нажмите на нужный вам формат файла:

    Для чтения на телефоне подойдут следующие форматы (при клике на формат вы можете сразу скачать бесплатно фрагмент книги "Italian Doctor, Full-time Father" для ознакомления):

    • FB2 - Для телефонов, планшетов на Android, электронных книг (кроме Kindle) и других программ
    • EPUB - подходит для устройств на ios (iPhone, iPad, Mac) и большинства приложений для чтения

    Для чтения на компьютере подходят форматы:

    • TXT - можно открыть на любом компьютере в текстовом редакторе
    • RTF - также можно открыть на любом ПК
    • A4 PDF - открывается в программе Adobe Reader

    Другие форматы:

    • MOBI - подходит для электронных книг Kindle и Android-приложений
    • IOS.EPUB - идеально подойдет для iPhone и iPad
    • A6 PDF - оптимизирован и подойдет для смартфонов
    • FB3 - более развитый формат FB2

  7. Сохраните файл на свой компьютер или телефоне.

Книги автора


Последние отзывы
Оставьте отзыв к любой книге и его увидят десятки тысяч людей!
  • константин александрович обрезанов:
  • константин александрович обрезанов:
  • Добавить комментарий

    Ваш e-mail не будет опубликован. Обязательные поля помечены *