Here's a sneaky peek at the first three chapters of Tempting Doctor Forever...
THE FRONT DOOR slammed, and light footsteps squeaked on the oak entry floor.
“Yeah. I’m home.” His son’s tone was flat, disinterested.
“How’d it go?”
Then a thud, which must have been Mateo’s backpack hitting the floor. Dr. Ethan Cordero winced as the noise reverberated through the walls and the floor. Mat must have homework from every class. Poor kid. First day of school and no mercy.
Ethan dropped the final moving box on a stack of beige cardboard book boxes in the corner of the home office in their temporary rental. He lined up the edges in a straight line so they’d take up less visual space until he had an opportunity to unpack and shelve them.
He waited for his son’s ball-capped head to pop through the French doors. But nothing. Footsteps padded down the hall and faded. No doubt his hungry fourteen-year-old was rummaging in the refrigerator.
For the thousandth time, he wished parenting was easier. He needed more answers. More solutions. But a teenage son was a thick wall of bricked-off emotions.
Not that he blamed Mateo. Mat hadn’t wanted to leave Los Angeles and move to a small town in Oregon. Even if his Pipo lived in Barrett Ridge. Even if his father had grown up there. Even his maternal grandparents had abandoned him and moved to Florida.
Ethan frowned. Felicia’s parents hadn’t yet recovered from the loss of their daughter. Mateo certainly missed his mother. Poor messed-up Felicia. A sting of guilt brushed Ethan’s awareness. God, he was about the only one who didn’t miss his wife.
Damn. That sounded terrible even within the safety of his own mind. It wasn’t true either. He missed the carefree, joyful Felicia. Before they’d graduated from college. Before she’d gotten bitter. Before she’d cheated on their marriage vows. Before she’d indulged in drunken and pill-laced rampages.
Ethan shut his eyes and focused on his breathing. Yes. He missed Felicia. If he didn’t, it wouldn’t hurt. Right? Two years since the car crash. It was a lifetime ago. It was yesterday.
Ethan straightened his shoulders and aimed toward the kitchen. Mateo ignored him as he shoved the refrigerator door shut and opened cupboards one by one. Click. Click. Thud. Slam.
“Granola bars are in the pantry. Fresh fruit is in the grocery sack by the stove.” Ethan pointed to first one then the other. Both behind Mateo.
Mateo grumbled something that might have been a thank-you as he dug out two granola bars. Ethan pushed away from the doorframe and snagged a white-spreckled red apple.
“Tell me about school.” Ethan decided a command might work better than a question or gentle probe for information. Had he been this uncommunicative with his parents when he’d been a ninth grader? Hardly. But then his life had been straightforward. His parents loved him, and their home was happy and laid back. He hadn’t just moved a thousand miles in the middle of a completely new terrain. He hadn’t seen his own mother die on the side of a road. Yeah. He could cut Mat some slack.
“It was school. No big deal.” Mateo cocked his head and a cascade of chin-length hair cloaked his dark eyes. “I can handle it.” Mateo bit into the granola bar, pivoted and ducked out the kitchen slider to the backyard. He slid into a low, bright red Adirondack chair with his nose buried in his smartphone. He sank into his gray hoodie and hunched against the cooling air of a sunny, January day.
That went well. Ethan rolled his eyes heavenward and checked his phone for any missed messages from the medical center. All was clear on that front. He wasn’t due there until first thing in the morning.
His fingers twitched. He already missed work even though it had only been five days since he’d left University Neurosurgery in Los Angeles. He’d been sure that a move away from the sprawling metropolis of the City of Angels was a sound decision, but an unwonted and unusual pang of doubt festered in his gut.
A fresh start was for the best. No daily reminders of the life he’d shared with Felicia. None of the petty bullies hounding Mateo in school. No awkward silences from friends and acquaintances who had no idea how to handle a family blasted by tragedy.
The return to his hometown was sensible and practical. His father was close by to help be a family for Mateo, and the hospital in nearby Alton had a shining, newly funded wing that was in search of a skilled neurosurgeon. It fit like a glove.
The only one suffering at the moment was Mateo. No one wanted to start at a new school in the middle of the year. Friendships had been made. Alliances had been built. Even in a small town, Ethan was convinced that they’d eye a newcomer with a pack mentality. Assess and attack.
Tightness grabbed his chest. Every fiber of his being cried out to protect his son from harm a