The doctor's forbidden fling

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Lady Violet's baby surprise!

When a family illness calls nurse Violet Dempsey back to the aristocratic world she spurned years ago, she's finally forced to face Nate Taylor...the boy next door she left behind.

Cardiologist Nate has come a long way from his life as the son of the hired help. Yet Violet's return shakes his foundations—and his resolve to ignore his lingering feelings for her! But after one forbidden night,everythingchanges. Now Violet and Nate find themselves facing an unexpected future...as a family of three!

“How did we end up here, Vi?”

Things might have worked out so differently if she'd been brave then and given them a chance, regardless of what anyone had thought. He'd been so in love with her that all she would've had to do was give him the word and he would have gone anywhere with her, done anything for her. Now he was a man on his own, too scarred to let anyone into his life.

“I don't know, but sometimes I wish I could go back.”

With Violet standing here in his dining room, wearing nothing more than his shirt and a smile, this was as far from those innocent days as they could get.

“I can't say I'd rather be anywhere else.”

Nate leaned in to kiss her, reasoning that twice in twelve years wasn't going to wreak too much havoc. He simply wanted to find out if her lips were as soft and sweet as he remembered.

They were.

He should have left it at one gentle peck on the lips—enough to reconnect and erase the bad feeling left with her departure. When he opened his eyes and saw her lips parted for more, felt her hands slide around his neck in submission, he couldn't recall any reason to hold back. They both wanted this. In some ways they needed it to enable them to finally move on.

He slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer to deepen the kiss he'd waited too long to repeat.

Dear Reader,

There has been no greater loss in my life than that of my mother. It changed my life beyond recognition, but thankfully, I had the love and support of my husband and family to help me through it.

When I pictured my heroine, Violet, going through that grief as a teenager, I knew the kind of strong but damaged woman she'd become further down the line. It will take someone like cardiologist Nate, who has always known her better than anyone else, to reach behind that tough facade and help heal her wounded heart.

The best part of writing this book was my research into the Dempsey family's ancestral home. It was a good excuse to travel the country, taking afternoon tea in stately homes and imagining all the drama and romance going on behind closed doors.

I thoroughly recommend reading this with a cup of tea and a slice of cake—or two!

Karinxx

THE DOCTOR'S FORBIDDEN FLING

Karin Baine

Books by Karin Baine

Harlequin Medical Romance

French Fling to ForeverA Kiss to Change Her Life

Visit the Author Profile page atHarlequin.comfor more titles.

Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin ebook!Click here to Join Harlequin My Rewardshttp://www.harlequin.com/myrewards.html?mt=loyalty&cmpid=EBOOBPBPA201602010002

For Tammy. From one special snowflake to another. Our field trip was epic! xx

Special thanks to my IT guru, Cherie, who dragged this technophobe kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century and managed not to throat-punch me in the process!

As always, I couldn't have told this story without help. A big hug to my editor, Laura, to Chellie, Susan and Alison, and an extra-squishy one for Amalie for her author guidance, too. xx

Praise for Karin Baine

“The moment I picked up Karin Baine's debut medical romance I knew I would not be disappointed with her work. Poetic and descriptive writing, engaging dialogue, thoroughly created characters and a tightly woven plot propelFrench Fling to Foreverinto the must-read, highly recommended level.”

—Contemporary Romance Reviews

“This is a wonderfully written book and one I could not put down and had to finish. You will not be disappointed in Karin Baine's writing.”

—GoodreadsonFrench Fling to Forever

Contents

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

EPILOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

INVIOLETDEMPSEY'Sexperience the family room in a hospital department was where good news and hope came to die. It was in one of these seemingly innocuous side rooms she'd learned of her mother's fate and now she was waiting to hear of her father's too. He was fighting for his life in the cardiac care unit down the corridor while she was staring at the wall waiting for that ominous knock at the door.

She knew how crucial the first few hours after a heart attack were and she'd spent them trying to organise a flight back to Northern Ireland from London. Even that relatively short drive from Belfast to the Silent Valley Hospital in County Down had seemed like an eternity when her father was so close to death.

Their relationship was strained to say the least, since she refused to conform to her role as the daughter of an earl, but that didn't mean she didn't care. After watching her mother's struggle to fit into society life, Violet had simply decided to take her own path rather than the one her father had paved for her. They'd barely spoken since.

The tap on the door still made her jump even though she'd been expecting it. This was the reckoning. Life or death. Her stomach clenched as the door opened and the harbinger of impending doom swooped in. Except this was no po-faced stranger invading the already claustrophobic space.

‘Nate?'

He was taller, broader and better groomed than she remembered but she'd recognise that dimpled smile anywhere. The hardest thing she'd ever had to do was walk away from that handsome face twelve years ago. She had no clue what he was doing here but he'd always had that knack of knowing exactly when she'd needed him.

‘Hello, Violet. Or should I sayLadyViolet? It's been a while.' He closed the door behind him and took the seat opposite her. It was so like Nate to plonk himself in the middle of her problems without a formal invitation.

‘It has, but as I recall you were never one to stand on ceremony. Violet is just fine.' She hoped he was teasing her rather than trying to rile her when he understood better than anyone how much she hated her title.

They hadn't parted on the best of terms, on any terms really since she'd left without a word of explanation. Although he would have just cause to turn his back on her after what had happened, or even want a showdown to confront her about her behaviour, she was counting on him cutting her some slack in the circumstances. The old Nate would always have put her needs first and it was odd enough trying to come to terms with the fully formed man version of her childhood companion without finding out he might've completely changed character since their last meet too. Especially as she was just as attracted to Nate the adult.

The dark blond floppy hair had been tamed into a dapper short back and sides, the boyish face now defined with a sleek jawline and dusted with enough stubble to be fashionable and sexy. The son of Strachmore Castle's domestic staff had apparently swapped his hard-wearing flannel shirts for more tailored, expensive attire. He could easily have moved in her family's circle of friends now. If either of them had ever wanted that. One impulsive teenage kiss had effectively ended their friendship and sent Violet scurrying off to London before she committed to something that could never have worked.

Nate cleared his throat and she realised she'd been staring longer than an old friend ought to. The heat started to build in her cheeks as she recalled their last meet when they had ventured into new realms of their relationship.

‘So... I assume you're here at your father's behest? He told me he was the one who phoned for the ambulance.' She steered the conversation, and her mind, away from dangerous territory. There was nothing like the thought of disapproving parents to pour cold water on certain heated moments that should be left in the past.

Nate leaned forward in the chair, forcing Violet to meet those hazel eyes she'd forgotten were so easy to get lost in. ‘It was Dad who found him, but that's not why I'm here. This chat is of a more...professional nature. I'm a doctor here. Your father's cardiologist, in fact.'

She opened her mouth to tell him to stop messing about, then closed it again when she saw how serious he was. There was a ghost of a memory of the sister in charge mentioning a Dr Taylor but she'd never imagined this scenario in her wildest dreams.

‘I didn't even know you'd gone to medical school,' she blurted out before she realised how bad that sounded. Cold. As though the spoilt brat with the privileged upbringing had swanned off and never looked back. That their time together had meant nothing to her.

It wasn't that she hadn't cared, or thought about him, over the years. Quite the opposite. She'd been afraid she'd becometoointerested in the life and times of Nate Taylor. For the sake of her new independent life away from her family's estate, she'd deemed it necessary to sever all ties with the one person who could've convinced her to stay.

‘I mean, I keep contact with home to a bare minimum.' She wanted to justify her ignorance of his success in her absence. Of course she wasn't vain enough to imagine he'd spent all this time tending the grounds with his father, waiting for her return. She simply hadn't thought of him as being so...ambitious.

‘I decided medicine would be a better paid, more respected profession compared to following family tradition into service.' There was that same old chip on the shoulder that had dominated conversation between them for hours in the old boathouse. Obviously their determination to branch away from the routes their parents had chosen for them had shaped both of their lives. For the better.

‘You've certainly done well for yourself.' Not that it made a difference to her. Nate was a good person at heart, no matter what salary he brought home. The very reason she'd needed to create some distance between them. He'd deserved better than getting mixed up in the hell that was society life when her main goal had been to escape it.

‘I'm sure I've surprised a few people round here by working my way out of a minimum-wage lifestyle. Now, I hear you've gone into nursing yourself so I'm sure you'll understand the seriousness of your father's condition.' He was definitely pricklier than she remembered and not above shaming her by displaying greater knowledge of her achievements than she had of his.

Violet's inner teenager with the schoolgirl crush couldn't help but wonder if he'd specifically sought out that information about her, or if his mother had simply been bending his ear. As the housekeeper at Strachmore, Mrs Taylor liked to keep her finger on the pulse, and that extended even as far as London. Every now and then Violet fielded prying phone calls from her father's well-meaning employee and, although she tried to keep details of her new life to a minimum, snippets of her successes and failures tended to slip through. The failures mostly related to relationships when the purpose of these communications was primarily to see if Violet had found herself a husband yet. Not in this lifetime. To her, marriage meant giving up everything you were to make another person happy and she'd seen first-hand the damage that could do. The fact she was here without her mother was proof enough it didn't work.

‘Mental health is more my area of expertise.' Violet had felt so powerless after her mother had taken her own life she'd wanted to train in an area where she could make a real difference. It could be a challenging role at times but one that brought its own rewards. She was doing her best to emotionally save lives, if not physically like Nate.

That little nugget apparently was news to him, as his raised eyebrows finally gave an indication he felt something more than indifference to her.

‘I guess that's...understandable and admirable.'

The compliment was hard won. Not that Violet had chosen her profession to gain brownie points from anyone, but Nate seemed reluctant to give her credit for getting off her backside to work instead of languishing in that house. It was another reminder they'd left those summer afternoons planning their escape far behind.

‘Us kids done good.' For old times' sake she decided to praise them both for doing exactly what they'd said they would and breaking free from their parents' hold.

Although, her father would've been appalled by her murder of the English language after paying for her elocution lessons. That was exactly why she'd relished doing it so frequently during her adolescence. Credit where it was due though, those hours spent improving her pronunciation had probably made her transition to London easier than sounding like a Northern Irish Eliza Doolittle. Perhaps she owed the old man some credit even if it had felt as if he was trying to force her to be someone she wasn't at the time.

‘And yet here we are...'

She knew he was trying to get her to focus back on what was happening here and now but the words held a different meaning for her. No matter how hard she tried, she would never be able to completely separate her world from her father's.

‘Okay, give it to me straight. Is he going to make it?' At some point she was going to have to apologise for running out on him but that would mean having to explain why she'd done it. It wasn't the time or place for that intense personal conversation, given the reason they were both here.

The scowl marring Nate's brow was further indication that her father was as bad as she'd feared. ‘As you know, your father has suffered a myocardial infarction—a heart attack. He was unresponsive when the paramedics arrived and they had to resuscitate him on scene.'

It was no wonder Mr Taylor's message had been so fragmented and frantic. Technically, her father had died. She really didn't know how to feel about that. Since her mother had passed away Violet had resented him—for the way he'd treated her and for not being the one to have gone in her place. Now she was faced with the possibility of losing him too, things didn't seem so clear-cut. When you stripped away the bad memories and anger, he was still her father. She was starting to understand why her mother hadn't been able to simply walk away when the going got too rough. Sometimes having a conscience could be a terrible thing.

‘A heart attack,' she repeated. Even though she'd heard it from others, coming from Nate somehow made it more real.

He nodded. ‘It's been confirmed by blood tests. The increased levels of cardiac enzymes have indicated the presence of damage to the heart muscle. We'll continue taking bloods every six to eight hours as well as running electrocardiograms, ECGs, to monitor his heart's electrical activity and make sure there are no further complications. The next twenty-four to forty-eight hours will be crucial. Our first line of treatment would usually be emergency angioplasty to widen the arteries and allow easier blood flow to the heart. Unfortunately your father has proved...opposed to that idea.'

Nate didn't sugar-coat it. He didn't need to. They both knew she preferred straight talking to well-meaning platitudes. That way she wouldn't get hurt by hidden truths further down the line. Such as finding out her mother's overdose hadn't been as accidental as she'd first been led to believe.

It was a typical response from her father to ignore advice and insist he knew better than everyone. This time it could cause his own death instead of someone else's.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, batting away those old feelings flooding back and that helplessness at not being able to shake her father into facing facts. It hadn't worked for her mother so her chances after all this time were slim.

‘Do we know what caused it?' She knew nothing of his lifestyle these days but she doubted his love of whiskey and cigars had diminished since she'd last seen him. He was a man who did as he pleased and sod the consequences.

‘There's no family history of heart disease that we know of and no current health problems, I understand. We'll know more after we run a few tests. For now, our priority is limiting the damage to the heart.'

‘I'm sorry I couldn't give the nurses any more information.' She grimaced, imagining the low opinion the staff were already forming of the absent daughter who couldn't give them any insight into her own father.

‘It's all right. I understand things have been...tricky between you both. We've pieced together what we could in the meantime.'

No doubt the Taylors' close relationship with her father had played a part in gathering that information. Violet didn't begrudge the bond the families had, but it sometimes made her feel inadequate, superfluous to requirements. Indeed, no one had ever needed her until now. Even now she wasn't sure how her presence would be received by either side of the class divide.

‘Can I see him?' No matter how fractured their relationship had been since her mother's death, or how frustrating he was, he was the only family she had left. Just because she wasn't the daughter he wanted didn't mean she'd stopped caring about him. It simply made it more difficult.

Nate bounced back up onto his feet. ‘I might be able to pull a few strings and get you a couple of minutes with him.'

The way he'd been reacting to her she was surprised he was willing to do anything other than list the facts of her father's condition. She figured this one must be for old times' sake—the days before things had got complicated and she'd made him despise her.

Determined to make the most of this breakthrough, she followed him into CCU, bobbing up and down like a meerkat keeping watch for predators as she tried to locate the patient. Nate strode through the ward with an air of confidence and authority she'd never seen in him before. It suited him. She had a sense of pride in him as patients and staff alike sat up straighter as he walked by. Finally people other than her had realised his worth in this world.

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