PLAYING DOCTOR | PILLOW TALK

 

PDr_Cover_AltAfter catching her research partner-slash-fiancé with the intern, Dr. Daphne Donovan returns home to lick her wounds and figure out how to fix her life. It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out: being an uber-brilliant Doogie Howser has made her life miserable while all the normal people she knows are happy and content.

There’s only one thing to do: become normal. No more being the wunderkind of childhood disease research. All she wants is a regular nine to five job, two-point-five children, a white picket fence, and a blue collar husband.

Except normal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially after she meets Ulysses Gray. Gray is everything she doesn’t want: smart, incredibly handsome, and a doctor—just like her ex-fiancé. She wants to deny him—and herself—but she can’t resist playing doctor… { scroll down for sneak peek!! }

 

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SNEAK PEEK
Playing Doctor — Chapter One

Glancing around the bookstore, I debated the wisdom in flipping through a book called Strip Style: A Guide for Aspiring Exotic Dancers while I waited for my interview.  But no one was close by and curiosity got the better of me, so I opened it.

Chapter Six: Proper Pastie Placement.

My cheeks flushed as I studied the diagrams.  Amazing—there seemed to be a science to applying mammary decoration.  I wondered how effective the adhesive would be if you had to readjust your application.  I imagined you wouldn’t want a pastie malfunction during your act.

Someone tapped me on my shoulder.  “Excuse me, miss.  Are you Daphne?”

I turned to find a short, paunchy man frowning at me.  Before I could remove my hand from the book, he glanced down and saw what I was browsing through.

Oh no.  I felt my face burn even hotter.  Not the best way to meet your future boss.  Since it was better to appear in control than to stand at his mercy, I cleared my throat and snapped the book shut.  “Yes, I’m Daphne Donovan.”

Eyes wide, he cleared his throat too.  “Well, I’m Len Delgado, the manager here.  If you’ll follow me.”

Clutching my portfolio against my chest, I let him lead me to a closet of a room in the back of the bookstore.  My stomach churned with each step.  I tried to tell myself to calm down, that I’d be able to pull this off, but each clack of my shoes on the linoleum echoed the doubts I was trying to suppress.

I needed this job.  Had I hurt my chances with the stripper incident?  The thought of failing made my stomach clench tighter.

He sat down behind an obscenely cluttered desk and pointed me toward a chair facing him.  The desk was even worse than my sister Mena’s before I cleaned it for her, and the chaos made me feel more unsettled.  I perched on the chair’s edge and gripped the portfolio, fighting the impulse to straighten things up.

My purse fluttered, startling me.  It took me a moment to realize my cell phone was vibrating.  Probably Kevin.  Again.  I set the purse on the floor next to my leg and ignored it.

Mr. Delgado cleared his throat again.  “You seem to have, uh, eclectic reading tastes.”

Remembering the pictures of different types of pasties, I fought a blush.  “I like diversity.”

He didn’t seem to be any less embarrassed.  “What else do you enjoy reading?”

“Well, I recently read a fascinating article on the effects of aging on hormone production.  As men age, testosterone levels lower due to decreased pituitary and hypothalamus function.”  On familiar ground, my stomach eased, which caused my entire body to relax.  Maybe I could pull this off after all.  I smiled and leaned forward as I warmed to my subject.  “Which is what causes erectile problems.  And they believe it could be related to genetics.”

“Uh—” Mr. Delgado shifted uncomfortably in his chair “— interesting.”

“I thought so.”  I studied him critically, wondering if he had erectile dysfunctions or if his chair was simply uncomfortable.  Either way, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.  I straightened the container of pens on his desk and sat back with a polite smile.

“Anything else you’ve read that you’d recommend?  In fiction.  Our customers often ask for recommendations.”

“Fiction?”  The last piece of fiction I read was my first year in college, when I was fourteen, but it was better than nothing.  “I enjoyed The Awakening.”

His brow wrinkled in thought.  “Is that by Stephen King?”

“Kate Chopin,” I corrected.

“Hmm.  Do you know John Grisham?”

“No.”  I frowned.  “Does he work here in the store?”

Mr. Delgado stared at me for a long moment before he rifled through some papers on his desk.  “I have the application you filled out somewhere here but do you have a résumé?”

“Yes.”  I opened my portfolio and pulled out the Curriculum Vitae I’d put together when I’d started my job search.

“Hmm,” was all he said when I handed it to him.

The gnawing in my gastrointestinal tract increased with every silent moment that passed.  Afraid he’d sense my fear, I focused on mentally organizing his office for optimum productivity instead.  Order was good.  I gathered the stack of papers he’d disrupted in his shuffling, tidied them, and neatly aligned them with the corner of his desk.

“Uh, Miss Donovan?”

I snapped my attention back to him.  “Yes?”

He held up the CV.  “This is half a page.”

“Yes.  I trimmed it to make it concise.”

“Concise?”  He frowned at it.  “This has hardly any detail.”

I flashed another smile.  I hoped it looked polite rather than sick.  “I tailored it to include the most pertinent information.”

“Yes, I see that,” he muttered.  “It says here you worked at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.”

“Yes.”

“But it doesn’t say what position you held.  And what does greet new patients entail?”

It entailed taking their vitals and diagnosing their illnesses, but that wasn’t in the job description so I’d left it out.  “I welcomed them to the hospital and wished them a pleasant stay.”

Mr. Delgado blinked.  “I see.”

I could tell he didn’t, which was just fine with me.  As long as he didn’t question it.

“And you worked there for four years before moving to the research department to do—” he glanced at the CV “—paperwork?  For six years?”

“Yes.”  Research was all paperwork.  The lab work was almost incidental.  Then, in case he hadn’t made the correlation, I said, “I’m very loyal.”

Frowning, he nodded.  “I get that, but it also says you went to college and graduate school.  Did you work while you were in school?  I’m trying to understand the timeline.”

I was afraid if he understood he’d think I wouldn’t fit in here, and I wanted to fit in more than anything.  So I took the offense.  “I went to Stanford on early admission.  Is that a problem?”

“Of course not.  But that means you were young when you went to college.”

“Everyone is young when they go to college,” I replied philosophically.

He stared at me for a long moment before he went back to my abbreviated CV.  “So what did you graduate in?  It doesn’t say here.”

“Er—”  I pressed a hand to my abdomen as it roiled.  I had to tell him the truth.  Misrepresenting yourself to an employer was cause for termination.  “I, er, studied medicine.”

“You did?”  He blinked.  “You’re a doctor?”

“Er—”  I tried to think of a way to sugarcoat it, but in the end I had to tell him the truth.  “Yes.”

“But you worked at Stanford’s research facility doing paperwork?  What kind of paperwork?”

I mumbled it as I realigned a stack of paper clip boxes on the edge of his desk.  Hopefully that would satisfy him and he’d get on to telling me about the job.

It didn’t.  “What was that?” he asked.

“I was on a team that was trying to determine the source of juvenile diabetes,” I repeated reluctantly.

Staring at the CV, he shook his head.  “You didn’t mention that detail here.  What was your position on the team called?”

“Lead researcher.”  I wished I had an antacid.

My phone went off again, making me jump as I felt the vibration against my leg.  Ironic that Kevin called me more now than he did when we were engaged.  Frowning at my purse, I kicked it further under my chair.

Mr. Delgado pounced as soon as I returned my attention to him.  “You were the lead researcher trying to find a cure for juvenile diabetes?  For the past six years?”

“That’s not entirely accurate.”  I reached for the closest pile of invoices and tidied them.  “I worked on isolating the cause for the deterioration of beta cell receptors, which is thought to instigate juvenile diabetes.”

“I see.”  But it was clear he didn’t.  And the way he stared at me made my already upset stomach twist.  It was the same stare I’d gotten all my life.  The goggling stare that was one part morbid fascination and one part total confusion, which added up to complete freak.

Well, I was sick of being the freak.  I was more than that, even if no one seemed to recognize it.

This bookstore clerk job was the perfect opportunity in proving it too.  Normal people were clerks.  Once I got the job, people would realize there was more to me than a high IQ and a sixth sense for medicine.  Instead of being intimidated by me, they’d accept me.  I’d be part of the gang instead of the odd one out.  I’d be able to have friends and find a husband to start a family.

And I’d be happy for a change.

So I ignored the anxiety wreaking havoc with my innards, set the invoices carefully on his desktop, and leaned forward.  “Mr. Delgado, I’m sure you’ll agree all my work experience shows that I’m a capable and responsible person that can carry through on any task no matter how difficult.”

“Yes.”  He rubbed his forehead.  “But, Miss—I mean, Dr. Donovan, wouldn’t you say you’re a touch overqualified to work in a bookstore?”

“Of course not,” I said firmly, infusing my words with the strength of my need to work here.  “I’m the perfect candidate for this position.”

“Why?”

His blunt tone took me aback, but I wanted to work here so badly that I ignored it.  “Like I said, I’m quite organized.  I learn quickly.  And I have excellent bedside manners.”

Mr. Delgado dropped my CV on his desk like it was as insignificant as the rest of the minutiae piled there.  “Miss, er, Dr. Donovan, your bedside manner may be excellent, but we don’t have beds here.  This is a bookstore.  A small bookstore.  And I can’t help but think that someone as accomplished as you would be bored working here.”

“No!”  I grabbed my CV and placed it precisely on top of the stack of papers I’d rearranged.  “No, I won’t be bored.  This is what I want.  I’m dying to work in a bookstore.”

His eyes narrowed suspiciously.  “Why?”

“Because I want to be just like you.”

“How am I exactly, Dr. Donovan?” he asked with a frown.

“Average.”  The moment it slipped from my mouth I knew that wasn’t the right argument to make.

Based on his expression, he didn’t think so.  He stood up.  “Thank you for stopping by.”

“No—wait.”  Bile rose up my throat at the thought of failing.  I scrambled to think of something to say that would change his mind.  Honesty seemed the only course of action.  “All my life I’ve been special.  I went to college when I was fourteen and was in residency by the time I was twenty.  I never went to the prom.  I never went to a frat party.  I never went on a road trip with girlfriends.”

He shook his head.  “Dr. Donovan, I sympathize—”

Standing up, I stabbed a finger at him.  “I’m sick of doing what people expect instead of what I want.  I’m sick of being smart.  I’m sick of working all the time and missing out on life.  I’m sick of not having my own family.  I’m sick of being a freak of nature.”

I leaned across his desk, not caring that some file folders slipped into the trashcan next to it.  I stared him in the eye, visually pleading for him to understand.  “I just want to be normal.”

“Yes.  Well.”  He cleared his throat.  “It’s not going to be in my bookstore.”

The fight ran out of me and I deflated.  “Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

I nodded.  By the way he clenched his jaw, I could tell nothing I said would change his mind.  I wanted to give in to the urge to hyperventilate, but I straightened my back and bent down to retrieve the folders out of the trash.  Noticing they weren’t alphabetized, I quickly shuffled them into order and held them out.  “Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”

“It was my, um—you’re welcome.”  He stared at my outstretched hand for a long moment, his forehead furrowed, before he accepted the files.  “I hope you find a position that’s more suited to your skill set.”

I wanted to tell him this position was perfect for my skill set, and that he was judging a book by its cover, so to speak.  However, I just nodded again and walked out of the backroom.

I was almost out the front door when I paused.  If I were going to work here, I wouldn’t even consider it—I wouldn’t want my coworkers getting a mistaken impression of me.  But I didn’t get the job so what did it matter?

Squaring my shoulders, I turned around and headed for the shelf that housed Strip Style.  I grabbed a copy before I could change my mind.

The clerk at the register smirked at me as I approached.

Why was she smirking?  My sister Mena did that when she was poking fun at me.  I glanced down at my clothes.  It couldn’t be my outfit—I’d forgone wearing one of my usual suits and dressed casually in a wool skirt and blouse that buttoned up to my neck.  With a mental shrug, I set the book on the counter and extracted my wallet.

The clerk shook her head as she bagged the book.

Pulling out a credit card, I frowned at her.  “Is something amiss?”

She shrugged and took my card.  “You don’t look like the other people who pick up this book.”

My eyes narrowed.  “How do I look?”

She shrugged again, distracted by the credit card process.  “I don’t know.  Just like you should be buying a book on Einstein’s theories instead.”

Not wanting her to see how she upset me, I held my head high.  I had plenty of practice at faking indifference from being taunted and teased growing up.

As I left the store, the echoes of young voices on the playground calling we don’t play with geeks, Doogie Howser mixed with Kevin’s scholarly voice saying I can deal with your brilliance at work, but at home I want a normal woman.

 

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