Dating The Millionaire Doctor

By: Marion Lennox

Arrogant toerag.

Outside, the stars were hanging low in the sky. The air was crisp and clean, and she filled her lungs, as if the hall inside had been full of smoke.

Of course it wasn’t, though maybe the smell of smoke would never completely leave her. The fire that had ripped through these mountains had changed her life-and she wasn’t ready to move on, no matter what Barb said.

‘Please come tonight,’ Barb had pleaded. ‘We’re desperate to make up the numbers. It’ll be fun. Come on, Tori, life can be good again. You can try.’

So she’d tried. Not very hard, she conceded, looking ruefully down at her serviceable skirt. She’d been living courtesy of welfare bins for too long now.

Tori-or more formally Dr. Victoria Nicholls, veterinary surgeon-had no financial need of welfare bins, but the outpouring of the Australian public had been massive. The local hall was filled with clothes donated to replace what was burned, and it was easier to grab what she needed than to waste time shopping.

She hadn’t shopped since…

She shook herself. Don’t go there.

But maybe she had to go there. Maybe that was part of the healing. No, she hadn’t shopped since the fire. She hadn’t dated since the fire-or before, of course, but then she’d had Toby. Or she’d thought she’d had Toby. There was the king of all toerags. Even the thought of him made her cringe. That she could have imagined herself in love with him…

She’d been incredibly, appallingly dumb. She’d made one disastrous mistake that had cost her everything, so what on earth was she doing lining up for another?

Oh, for heaven’s sake, she was supposed to be moving on. There were good people out there, she told herself. Good men. She had to learn to trust again. Jake had seemed…

Bored. Compelled to be there. But sort of interesting?

Maybe Barb was right; she did need to get out more, because Jake seemed to have stirred something in her that hadn’t been stirred for a long time.

He’d been long and lean and sort of…sculpted. Rangy. He hadn’t bothered to shave, and there was another mark against him. She’d gone to all the trouble of finding this stupid blouse and he’d come with a five-o’clock shadow. Mind, it had looked incredibly sexy, with his deep, black hair-a little bit wavy-and his lovely brown eyes and the crinkles around his tanned face that said he normally didn’t look as bored as this; normally he smiled.

How stupid was this? She gave herself an angry shake. She’d met ten men tonight, all of them seemed uninterested and uninteresting, and even though Jake seemed…interesting…he was the rudest of the lot.

She’d been stupid once. Any relationship she might have in the future must thus be dictated by sense and not by hormones, and all she’d felt with Jake was hormones. Lots of hormones.

Disgusted, she climbed into her battered van and headed out of the car park, back up the mountain. She’d been away for long enough.

No matter what Barb said, she wasn’t ready for a new life. She already had an all-consuming one.

Or did she? Barb was right, she accepted. The life she knew was coming to an end.

Where did she go from here?

Wherever-as long as her decisions were based on sense and not hormones, she told herself fiercely and headed back up the mountain.

‘Anyone strike your fancy?’

Jake’s manager and friend from university days was watching a blonde totter across the car park to her cute little sports car. She was definitely Rob’s choice for the night. Maybe he’d even take it further.

As opposed to Jake. He had no intention of ever taking things further. Yeah, it had been crazy to agree to speed dating. He was here for less than a week, and every one of the women he’d met tonight had diamonds in their eyes.

He didn’t do diamonds. Diamonds had been drilled out of him early.

Jake had been brought up by a mother who spent her life bewailing an Australian father who was, according to her, the lowest form of life on the planet. Love made you cry, his mother told him, over and over from the time he was a toddler, since she’d taken him back to the States and-as she’d said repeatedly-abandoned her dreams for ever.

Maybe his mother’s broken dreams had left their legacy. Who knew? He needed a shrink to tell him, but a shrink couldn’t change him. He didn’t do long-term relationships. He’d never felt the slightest need to take things down that road. Women were colleagues and friends. They were often great companions. The occasional mutually casual relationship was great, but why open yourself to the angst of commitment?

Rob, however, had talked about tonight as though it was the answer to his prayers. As if diamonds were on his agenda. Which was ridiculous.

‘What do you see in this five-minute set-up?’ he demanded, and Rob gave a crooked smile.

‘My perfect woman’s out there somewhere. I just have to find her. So there was no one tonight who struck your fancy?’

‘Your lady’s hot,’ Jake conceded, being generous. ‘But no.’

‘So what did you say to Doc Nicholls?’ Rob asked. ‘To make her walk out.’

‘Doc Nicholls?’

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