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Excerpt from Dancing With The Enemy

Chapter 9

Lisa’s workday the following day passed by uncharacteristically quickly. She was in a good mood and neither the difficult patients nor Lindsey with her passive aggressiveness were able to derail her good humor. Even Jennifer noticed. 

“Were you just humming?” She asked Lisa as they filled out charts side by side.

“No I wasn’t.”

“Yes, you were. What’s got you so cheery today?

“Are you trying to say I’m usually grumpy?”

“Not at all, but you know how you are. Serious, focused, until a cute baby comes in then you’re Miss Goofy. So what gives?”

“Nothing, I’m just in a good mood. I need to go splint room 2’s broken wrist. 

“You’re not going anywhere till you tell me what’s going on. I smell a man involved. Did you get laid?”

“Shut up!” Lisa said in a loud whisper looking around to see if anyone had overheard Jennifer.

“Well, you need to. It’s been way too long.”

“I have a date.”

“I knew it! Well done you. Who with?”

“Someone I met at the Farmer’s market last Saturday. We’re having dinner at Elephant Walk tonight.”

“I want to hear all about it tomorrow. Have you decided what you’re going to wear?”

“It’s just a casual dinner.”

“No such thing on a first date. You have to showcase your assets, and hon, I’m not just talking about your brains. You, Dr. Johnson, have an ass I would kill for and perfect hair.” Lisa snorted. “You do,” Jen admonished. “Oh, and wear something sleeveless so you can show off your toned arms. All your sessions at the gym were in preparation for tonight. So flaunt those triceps, girl!” Lisa giggled.

“I always suspected you had a thing for me.” Lisa said.

“I can’t help it. You’re gorgeous. And this guy is blind if he doesn’t see it.”

Lisa smiled wide and picking up her chart headed toward Room 2.

“Lisa,” Jen called out.

Lisa turned around. 

“Have fun.”

Lisa stood in her closet looking at herself in the full length mirror. She wore a navy A-line skirt that came to her knees, a cream tank top and a little orange cardigan that wrapped around her waist to tie in the back. She looked at herself critically trying to determine if the outfit adequately toned down her assets. She had no interest in attracting a man who was primarily interested in her curvy bottom or imagining her long legs wrapped around his waist. She turned this way and that. She didn’t know what Jen was talking about. Her butt was not much bigger than average. And her hair. She sighed. Then smiled. It had taken her years to accept then love her mass of curls. Once she learned how to properly take care of her hair after watching countless videos online, she began to appreciate how fortunate she was to be able to “wash and go.” She switched out the earrings she was wearing for bigger hoops that would be visible under her hair, then selected several bangles and a thin gold necklace. Heeled beige sandals and a small handbag completed the outfit. She walked out of her closet, closing the door on the pile of discarded outfit choices on the floor. 

The restaurant, Elephant Walk, was one Lisa had been to before. It was one of Boston’s numerous gems. A relatively small, unassuming restaurant but big in charm and flavor and a favorite with the locals. She approached the door to the restaurant and reached for the handle but a large clearly masculine hand reached past hers to grab it.

“Allow me.” 

Lisa looked up and immediately wished she hadn’t. 

The jaw.

The eyes. 

The smile. 

Sam.

For a moment, Lisa wished she had canceled the date. Because how was she going to carry on a conversation with a man who rendered her mute, less because of his good looks, than a certain magnetism that made her want to step into his embrace. He was stunning. He’d had his hair cut, she noticed. He wore a pair of khakis and a white t-shirt whose hem showed beneath a long-sleeved blue knit shirt with the buttons at the top undone. He was dressed casually but had the bearing of someone who would be comfortable wearing Valentino or Fendi. 

“Lisa?” He reached out and lightly took her arm at the elbow. 

“Sorry. Hi!” 

Sam reached forward and kissed her on the cheek. Then the other. He smiled, gesturing with his free hand. “After you.”

As Lisa stepped through the door he held open, she was thankful for a few moments to collect herself. She took in the feel of his lips on her cheeks, the way he smelled and filed it away for future review. She took a deep shaky breath as unobtrusively as possible. As the hostess led them to their table, Sam kept his hand on the small of Lisa’s back. She sat in the chair the hostess had pulled out and noticed that Sam waited until she was seated before he took his seat. 

“You look very nice, Lisa.”

Lisa was glad her skin tone prevented a blush from showing. 

“Thanks. So do you. You sure don’t look like a strawberry farmer right now. But you’ve already mentioned you’re not.”

“My family owns several businesses. Marco is the farming genius. My father owns a limousine service and Mom cooks.”

“Does she work in a restaurant?”

“No. She just cooks for the family.”

“Do you have any siblings other than Marco?”

Sam shook his head. “Nope. Just the two of us.”

“Cooking for the family keeps her busy enough? I mean, you guys are grown now and I presume not still living at home?”

Sam laughed. “Definitely not still living with my parents. When I say the family, I mean La Famiglia. I have a large extended family. My Mom had some complications after Marco was born and couldn’t have any more children. But she has three brothers and three sisters. My Dad has 1 brother and 4 sisters. I have about 30 nieces and nephews. I lost count about 2 years ago. And in true Italian fashion, we get together for Sunday dinner every week at my Mom’s house because she’s the eldest of her siblings. She starts preparing for Sunday dinner on Thursday. And of course people come by all the time regardless of the day of the week.”

“She sounds quite impressive your Mom.”

“She is. She’s a true matriarch and works really hard to care for the entire family and keep us all connected.”

“Did you learn to cook from her?”

“I did. She had no daughters so Marco and I both learned to cook really well.”

“What do you most like to cook,” Lisa asked.

“Pizza.”

She laughed.

“You laugh. Wait until you’ve tasted my homemade pizza crust covered with 3-hr simmered tomato sauce, organic tomatoes and basil from Marco’s garden, fresh mozzarella, oregano and accompanied by a glass of chianti. You won’t be laughing then.”

“What will I be doing?” Other than licking the sauce off your fingers.

“Licking the sauce off your fingers.” Sam paused. A strange look flitted over his face but quickly disappeared. “But enough about me. Tell me about your family.”

Before Lisa could speak, the waitress arrived with their starters: chicken satay with a spicy peanut sauce and spring rolls.

“I love these,” Lisa said picking up the tender grilled chicken on the wooden skewer and dipping it in the sauce on her plate. ‘I always order them when I come here. She took a bite of chicken and had to tug a bit to get it off the skewer.

“Ow!” She squeezed her right eye shut.

“What’s the matter?”

“I got some spicy sauce in my eye.” Her eye started to water.

“Do you want to go splash some water into your eye?”

Lisa didn’t answer for a moment. “No, it’s okay. It’s already started to ease off. I’m sure I’ll be fine in a few minutes.” Despite her brave words, she still couldn’t keep her right eye open. Acting as nonchalant as possible, she picked up her glass of water and took a sip. She looked up at Sam and nearly choked on her water. 

“What?” She asked. He could barely contain his mirth and stopped trying to. His deep chuckle rather than annoying Lisa sent a shiver through her. 

“I’m sorry, Lisa. I don’t mean to laugh at you. But you do look a little funny sipping your water with one eye closed .”

“Ha ha, very funny. You shouldn’t make fun of a woman in her misery. That’s not very gentlemanly and I only associate with gentlemen.”

“You’re right.” Sam took her hand laying on the table and looked in her left eye. “I’m sorry,” he said, still barely able to keep a straight face.

“Apology grudgingly accepted.” Lisa looked to where her slender hand rested in his much larger one. His nails were clean and neatly trimmed. There was a smattering of dark hair on the back of his hand. He wore a Bulgari watch, understated luxury. Definitely not a blue collar worker, Lisa thought. She gently pulled her hand out of his grip under the guise of taking another sip from her water glass. It had felt too good holding his hand and she was starting to imagine how his touch would feel on other parts of her body.

Sam cleared his throat. “You were about to tell me about your family.”

“My Dad is a middle school teacher and Mom works at the cable company. I have a younger sister Monica who has a two year old boy whom I spoil rotten. My family unlike yours is small but we’re from such a tight knit community that it feels like I have a much larger family. It helps that my parents are very involved in the church.”

“You’re from a good churchgoing family and you’re not bad looking at all.” Lisa chuckled at Sam’s choice of words. “How are you still single?”

“Sometimes I feel I’m married to my work. What about you, Sam? You have a beautiful daughter. Where’s her Mom?

“Maddy’s Mom and I divorced a year ago. It was rough there for a while, but Maddy’s such a tough kid for being just five years ago. Sometimes I feel she’s the only reason I kept it together.”

“She sounds incredible.”

“She’s my life.”

After a pause, Lisa asked, “So what is it that you do for a living, Sam?”

Sam sat back in his chair, graceful as a jaguar, Lisa thought. “Any guesses?” he asked.

“Let me see… Firefighter!” 

Sam laughed. “I do have a red car, but no.”

“Rocket scientist…exotic dancer…hired gun.”

Sam just grinned bigger.

“Alright, let me be serious. I’d guess you probably work in an office.”

“That’s right.”

“You strike me as highly educated.”

“I do have a graduate degree.”

“Ok, so you’re a professional. Engineer? Lawyer? Architect? Business Owner?”

Sam leaned forward with a serious expression. “Tell you what, Lisa. I’d rather we didn’t share just yet what we do. The minute you tell people what you do, there are so many stereotypes that go through their minds and color the way they view you subsequently that may not be accurate. So for now, can we just be Sam and Lisa? If I’m lucky enough that you want to see me again, maybe in a month or so after we’ve had the chance to get to know each other a bit, then we can share what we do.” 

“There’s a different approach to getting to know someone. Ok. I agree.”

“Unless you’re a witch or otherwise involved in the dark arts, then you must tell me right away. As beautiful as you are, I’m sure you’ve bewitched a lot of men.” 

Lisa laughed. “Rest assured. I am not a witch. Same goes for you. If you’re some kind of financial con artist or involved in the mafia then tell me now. Because if you’re hiding something bad, I will find out and it won’t be pretty when I do.”  

Sam pretended to be hurt. “So because I’m Italian I’ve gotta be involved in the mafia.”

“I’m just saying. I need to know. A month may be too long for me to extricate myself if you’re part of La Famiglia.”

“Rest assured, Cara. I am not.”

The rest of the evening passed in a blur of lighthearted conversation frequently punctuated with laughter. Lisa couldn’t remember the last time she’d had such a pleasant evening. As Sam talked about his daughter Maddy, his Mom and his big Italian family, Lisa couldn’t help but be envious of the obvious love he felt for all of them, including his brother Marco whom he loved to tease. Slow down, she chastised herself. You’ve only just met him. But as she listened to him talk, she knew she never wanted him to stop.

 
 
 
 

Excerpt from Loving Dr. Martin

Prologue

Serena almost felt bad for womankind as she stood near the mic on the side of the stage and watched her boyfriend, Michael, perform his guitar solo in front of the crowd. The screaming female fans were pressed against the edge of the stage, reaching for him. Their band, It’s Complicated, was playing at the Paradise Rock Club near Fenway, a stone’s throw from Boston’s world-renowned baseball park and a short subway ride to Boston University where they went to school. Consumed by the sounds coming from his guitar, the boisterous crowd of mainly college students shrieked as Michael crouched at the edge of the stage. 

“I love you, Michael!” a fan yelled. 

As always, while he played the riffs for which their band was quickly becoming famous for, Michael was lost to the outside world. At over six feet tall with a lean, muscular frame, he had presence. He cradled his sleek John Petrucci and let his fingers fly over the strings. His wavy light-brown hair fell frequently over his forehead as he played, and every time he flicked it out of his eyes, he sent the women in the audience into hysterics. His muscular thighs strained against his jeans and his sweat-soaked black T-shirt was plastered to his chest. Serena’s attention was caught by a young woman who had lifted her shirt and was wiggling her large, unrestrained breasts while waving her arms and hollering for Michael’s attention. In short order, she was escorted away by a bouncer. 

Too soon, Michael concluded his guitar solo. He looked up, caught Serena’s eye, and winked. She blew him a kiss full of promise and turned to face the audience. They’d given up trying to explain what kind of band they were. Their music was mostly rock, a little hip-hop, some jazz and folk, and a whole lot of fun. Hence, the band’s name. Of all the band members, Michael might have been the most popular with the ladies, but Serena had been told her powerful, soulful voice, combined with his melodious panty-melting baritone, was a magical combination. An hour later, they were finally allowed off stage after performing several encores. 

“That was awesome, guys. We rocked it!” Michael said as he high-fived the drummer, Devin, in the greenroom backstage. Patrick, who’d been on keyboard, approached and gave Devin multiple hand slaps. “Yo, Devin, that was sick what you did tonight. Are you high on something? ’Cause you were out of this world on those drums, man!” Playing drums was a full body experience for Devin. He delighted their audiences with the acrobatics he performed with his drumsticks— though his handsome looks, muscular frame, and tattoo sleeves didn’t hurt his popularity either. 

“Thanks, man,” Devin said. “Hope you don’t mind that I went off script.” Patrick was enrolled in the music engineering program at Berklee College of Music and worked closely with Michael on the songwriting.

“If you’re going to play like that, I say you can go off script anytime,” Kiera, the final member of the band, told Devin. She was their bass guitarist, with bone-straight blonde hair that fell past her shoulders but came short of obscuring the tattoos on her upper arms of her music heroes—Paul McCartney on the left and Marcus Miller on the right. She wore artfully ripped jeans and a black vest over her tank top. Spotting her girlfriend off to a corner, she left them to walk over and chat.

Half an hour later, Serena waved as Devin, Patrick, and Kiera collected their equipment and left the club. Alone at last, Michael sank gratefully into a chair and pulled Serena onto his lap to straddle him, kissing her full lips greedily.

“You’re like a goddess when you sing,” he said against her lips in that British accent that made her want to behave in very improper ways. 

“You’ve said that before, but I don’t see you worshipping me,” Serena replied with a coy smile. 

“Believe me, darling, I worship you.” He leaned back to gaze at her. “I worship your earlobes…” He kissed each slowly. “…your beautiful hair.” He ran his hands through the silky black waves cascading down her back and kissed her on the temples. “Mmm, definitely your lips.” He placed his soft lips on hers and worshipped her until she was forced to pull away, breathless. 

She came up for air and looked at him tenderly. “That was an awesome show tonight. Your guitar solo had the crowd screaming and all the women begging to marry you.”

“Just the women?” he asked with a naughty grin.

“The women and the men. You are irresistible.”

He placed kisses all over her warm, brown face. “There’s only one woman I want to marry.”

Serena wasn’t ready yet to have that conversation. After all, they were still young. She’d just turned twenty the previous month. Instead, she said, “I’ve told you time and time again that you can’t marry Professor Rosales.”

Michael allowed her the side step. “Why not? She’s gorgeous.”

“That’s not enough to marry someone.”

“Her body is…” He brought his fingers to mouth as he smacked his lips.

What body?” Serena pretended to be incensed.

“What body indeed? Yours is the one that I can’t get enough of. This arse that I can barely cup.” He proceeded to demonstrate. “These sexy hips… I want at least three boys from those hips.” Serena slapped one hand away. “Oh, and a girl too.” She slapped the other. With a laugh, Michael drew her close once again. “But your spirit is what I love most about you. You are an incredible woman. You’re beautiful, smart, and people love you. I don’t know what you’re doing with a mere mortal like me.”

“I was just asking myself the same question this morning.”

Michael grinned. 

Reluctantly, Serena pulled away. “We need to get back to campus. I’ve gotta put in a full day of studying tomorrow for my organic chemistry exam. It’s my last final before winter break.”

“You know you’re going to ace it.” 

“Acing comes from studying. Speaking of acing, let me see if Dr. Lee has posted our biochemistry results yet. I asked Amy to send me a text when he did.” Serena got off Michael’s lap and went to search her bag for her cell phone. Not finding it, she glanced puzzled around the room. “I was on my phone just before the show. I must have left it somewhere by the stage.” Before she could take off, Michael pulled her back in for a lingering kiss. Serena sighed. Being held and kissed by Michael felt so right; perhaps studying could wait. But she did need to go find her phone. 

“I’ll be right back,” she promised and hurried away.

She found her phone where she’d hastily tossed it behind the amplifier when she’d realized it was still in her hand when she’d walked onto stage for the performance. She retrieved it and walked back to the office as she checked her messages for the one she sought. In addition to being a biochemistry professor, Dr. Lee was also the pre-med advisor and Serena needed to do well in his class if she wanted a strong letter of recommendation when it came time to apply to medical school. She found the message from her friend and quickly skimmed it. A big smile broke on her face and she took off at a near run to share this success with Michael. He’d likely roll his eyes affectionately at yet another exam she had aced. But as she approached the office, she heard voices and slowed down. Just through the doorway, she could see Michael listening intently to a smartly dressed man with a British accent. His style was sharp, but still casual—jeans with a gray jacket over a black shirt. 

“You have a small but devoted fan base in the UK,” the stranger said. “They feel a connection with you because you’re British. I’ve been following your band for a while, and I think it’s time to step up to the big stage. I can open some doors for It’s Complicated in London. What do you say?”

Serena scoffed. They were college students for crying out loud. It was wonderful that they had fans that far away, but they weren’t about to move to a different continent.

“I’ll think about it,” came Michael’s response. 

At Serena’s gasp, the man looked up and caught sight of her. He gave her a warm smile, which she didn’t return. He returned his attention to Michael. “Give me a call.” He gave Michael his card and shook his hand. As he approached Serena, he said, “You were incredible tonight. I hope to see more of you.” She stared at his retreating back and then walked slowly into the room. 

“Who was that?” she asked.

Michael rubbed the back of his neck. “That was Oliver Ross. He’s the manager for Tornado, The Beats, and several other bands based in the UK who’ve become quite successful.”

“A manager?”

Michael came to stand in front of Serena and took her hands. He took a deep breath and his words rushed out in undisguised excitement. “He wants to sign our band and help us break into the music scene in London and from there, who knows how far we’ll go! This is our big break. I’ll talk to the others tomorrow and then I’ll give him a call. This is incredible.”

Serena pulled her hands out of his. “What about school?” she asked. “I’ve still got the rest of junior year and senior year to do and you’ve only got six months left until graduation.”

“We can finish later. Let’s see where the music thing goes. This is the chance of a lifetime. This is our chance to take It’s Complicated to the international stage. Don’t you want that?”

“I want to be a doctor.”

“But, baby, you sing like an angel.”

“That’s no guarantee. You’re talking about taking a huge risk. Interrupting my studies and leaving my mom to move to a country where I don’t know anyone.”

“We’ll be together.”

“It’s not enough.” 

Michael stumbled back as if she’d punched him in the chest. “I thought you loved me.”

Serena softened her voice and stepped back in close. “I do love you, Michael, but I can’t do what you’re asking. It may be a great opportunity, but it’s a risk I’m not willing to take. After the upheaval of Dad cheating on Mom and leaving us, I need stability in my life. Great bands fail all the time. That’s the nature of the music business. But all doctors who finish school get jobs. I need that.”

Michael looked at her as if she was speaking an ancient language long extinct. “You can’t be serious. How can you possibly turn your back on this opportunity?” His expression suddenly changed. “You don’t believe we can do this. You don’t believe in me.” 

“It’s not that at all. This band is amazing.”

Michael’s voice became pleading. “I promise I’ll take care of you, Serena. You can transfer your studies to a university in the UK. Even if I have to get a job as a waiter or janitor to make ends meet, I promise I’ll take care of you.”

After her father’s betrayal, Serena knew she couldn’t count on that. “I need to be able to take care of myself. I’ve had a clear plan for my life since I was eleven years old. I’m going to finish college, go to medical school, become a doctor, buy a house, and take care of my family. Moving to London to sing with the band—not part of the plan.” She took a deep breath. “This has been fun, Michael, but it was never meant to be the main path I was going to walk in life.”

“I can’t believe you’re turning this amazing opportunity down. What’s wrong with you?”

“There’s nothing wrong with me. There are just things more important to me than music.”

“More important than me.” 

Serena said nothing. Michael stalked away and grabbed his guitar, then spun back toward Serena. 

“You’re a coward. You’ve got all this talent and you’re just going to let it go to waste because you’re scared.”

“Michael—”

“You think I’m going to fail? Watch me.”