Waking Up with His Runaway Bride is my second novel for Mills and Boon Medical Romance. It is an ex-lovers reunited story and was such fun to write!
Here is an excerpt from the book’s Dear Reader letter to tell you a little bit more about the story:
This story is set mostly in Atanga Bay, a fictional place north east of Auckland, in New Zealand’s north island. Along this coastline there are many small townships of thriving communities each with its own identity and appeal. Since I immigrated to this wonderful country ten years ago, I never tire of visiting them.
Atanga is the Maori word for beautiful, and the place I’ve created is indeed that. With gorgeous views, a flourishing community and a sense of peace it is the place where Mim draws strength to fulfill her dreams. It is also the place where she retreated to lick her wounds after her failed engagement.
For committed city dweller, Connor, Atanga Bay is a challenge, but meeting his ex-fiancée here provides even more problems. This story is about letting go of the past and creating a future of hope despite the odds. At times both Connor and Mim struggle against this, but their journey to love is also filled with fun and laughter.
I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
‘Absolutely not! No way! I am not trying to impress him. That would be cheap and tacky, and I don’t do either. How could you think such a thing?’
Mim McCarthy peered down from the top of the wobbly step-ladder perched precariously on the desk and laughed at her colleague’s preposterous suggestion. Even though she’d hit the nail square on the head.
Then she daubed a second coat of paint over the stubborn Tasmania-shaped stain on the ceiling. ‘I just thought it was time to say goodbye to Tassie.’
‘Liar.’ Skye, the practice nurse-manager, gripped the ladder in one hand and held the paint-pot up in the other. ‘So it’s totally coincidental that you decided to tart up the admin office on the same day the Matrix Fund Assessor arrives?’
‘Okay, you got me.’ Mim raised her hands in defeat as her grin widened. ‘Lord knows why I employed someone almost as devious as me. You’re right, I’ll do anything to get this funding, including impressing the assessor. Whatever it takes. We need the money, or…’
‘It’s…?’ The practice nurse did a chopping motion across her throat. ‘Goodbye to Dana’s Drop-In? No, Mim. Never. Your patients wouldn’t let that happen. They need you.’
‘No. I wouldn’t let it come to that. I was going to say, or I’ll sell my soul to the bank manager. Again. I’m afraid I’m running out of soul.’ Mim sucked in a fortifying breath. No drop-in centre would mean hours of travel for her community to the closest medical centre and the end of a dream for her. The dream that locked in the promises she’d made to her Mum. No way would she give that up.
She was anything but a quitter. Doing the hard yards as the quirky outsider at Med School had taught her how to fight for everything she wanted. That, and the legacy of her unconventional childhood. She’d learnt pretty quick to rely on no-one but herself. Ever. ‘I thought a quick slick of paint would brighten the place up. And conceal the fact we have a mysterious leak. Pray it doesn’t rain for the next week.’
‘Forecast is good. Nothing but blue skies and summer sun.’ Skye wrinkled her pierced nose. ‘Good job you bought low-odour paint, wouldn’t want the assessor to be savvy to the ruse.’
‘Well, if you can’t win, cheat.’
Skye frowned and put the paint-pot on the desk. ‘Another famous Dana saying?’
‘Unfortunately. Not quite up there with inspirational-go-get-‘em quotes, but apt, and very Dana.’ There were plenty of others. In her sober moments Mim’s mother had been adorable and well-intentioned and spouted many wisecracks. Not always about cheating, some were about love too, about keeping family close. And your dealers closer.
Mim winked down at her partner-in-crime. ‘The assessor is Dr Singh from Meadowfield. A sweetie and a push-over. This assessment will be in the bag, you’ll see. We’ll wow him with our refreshing approach to community medicine.’
Touchingly loyal, Skye smiled and nodded briskly. ‘If anyone can wow him, Mim, you can. You’ve transformed this place already. You just need a lucky break.’
‘I know. We’re so close to making it work, we were bursting at the seams at yesterday’s baby clinic. I think we’re finally getting the message through. And the open-all-hours policy helps.’ Even if her extended days were half-killing her. Pride in her achievement of getting the locals to trust the McCarthy name again fuelled her determination.
She brushed her fringe from her forehead with the back of her wrist and stepped gingerly down the ladder. Standing on the desk she strained up at the Bone White paint patch. ‘Shame everything in life isn’t so easy to gloss over. Hmm, now the rest of the ceiling needs repainting.’
‘And the rest of the clinic.’ Pointing to the chipped window-panes and scuffed walls Skye shrugged. ‘We haven’t time, he’s due in thirty minutes. And, to be honest, paint is the least of our problems.’
Tell me about it. But she wasn’t about to burden her best mate with the reality of the clinic’s financial problems. ‘We’ve just got to get Dr Singh on side.’
‘Ooohh, I do love a challenge.’ Skye placed Mim’s proferred paintbrush on top of the paint-pot. Then she rubbed her hands together. ‘Okay. How shall we handle it? You take the bribery? I’ll do the corruption?’
‘No! I’d get struck off! But… on the other hand…’ Mim giggled, then stuck one hand on her cocked hip. She raised the hem of her maxi skirt to her thigh and wiggled her bum suggestively. A move she'd learnt from her salsa DVD; Spanish, sultry and super-sexy. ‘If we want to influence a man, how about good old-fashioned women’s wicked ways?’
At the sound of the man’s purposeful cough Mim’s breath stalled somewhere in her chest.
Excellent. Just dandy. Sexy salsa? On her desk?
With burning cheeks she dropped the hem, slicked on her most accommodating smile and swiveled slowly to face Dr Singh. Trying desperately to cover her embarrassment. ‘And then, Skye, you shimmy to the left…Ohmygod.’
As she caught a clear view of their visitor her heart stalled along with her lungs. Jolts of awareness and pain and excitement slammed through her veins. Heat and ice clashed in her gut. So not Dr Singh.
She gasped for oxygen and whispered his name on a jittery breath. ‘Connor? Connor. What are you…?’
Framed in the doorway, filling the space, three years older, three years more distinguished in an expensive designer suit, and with three years’ worth of questions simmering behind cool licorice eyes, stood Connor Wiseman.
Why? Why today when she was up to her eyeballs in assessors? Why this millennium?
The years had been kind to him, he’d grown in to those sharp cheekbones. Casual bed hair. And god, those darkest grey, almost black, eyes searching her face. No trace of the flecks of honey that had heated her and held her captive. Cold onyx.
He stepped into the tiny room. His presence, a stark study of monochrome against what now felt like the gharish colours of her office, was commanding and alluring. Every part of him screamed success. Just like she remembered.
His mouth curled into a sardonic smile as he spoke, ‘Well, I guess the mystery of my runaway fiancée has finally been solved. I’ll call off the search party.’
‘Mystery?’ So, she’d hurt him.
That much had been obvious by his prolonged silence. But accentuated now by the anger glittering in those dark eyes, even after all those years. Uber successful guys like Connor weren’t used to rejection, so it would have cut deep. To be thrown aside by someone very definitely not worth his pedigree.
And now, on top of everything else, God only knew what he thought about her early morning burlesque performance. Judging by the fixed set of his close shaven jaw, very little.
She sucked in her stomach, thrust her shoulders back and stepped down from the desk. Wishing she’d chosen something more impressive to wear today than her favourite jumper and skirt ensemble. Hoping against fading hope that old and washed out was the new demure.
‘There was no mystery, I was very clear. I called, but you refused to speak to me. And I said in my note… Atanga Bay is my home. This is where I will always choose to live.’
‘Finally I get a chance to see what was so much better than Wellington. Very…quaint?’ The top of his lip twitched then tightened back into a thin line. He glanced at the overstuffed cushions, the tumbling piles of paperwork, at the brightly-coloured mis-matched family-friendly atmosphere she’d tried to create in her beloved ramshackle clinic. ‘A heritage property? Or just plain old?’
‘Okay, it needs work. It might not be up to your swanky city standards, but it’s mine. I’m updating. Slowly. It’s a work in progress.’
‘Oh, so post-modern?’ His lips tweaked to a one-cornered grin as he surveyed the white on a sea of fading yellow.
‘Under construction.’ She fired back as she straightened her spine even further. Damn him, his ability to rile her clearly hadn’t abated after all these years. She would not let him get the better of her. Where was her superfast wit when she needed it? Out somewhere playing hooky with her fabulous financial acumen and supermodel looks. ‘Well, I love it here.’
‘I’ll leave you two to get re-acquainted. Lots to do…’ Skye finally closed her gaping mouth and scurried out of the room taking the stepladder and paint-pot with her.
Mim watched her ally leave and ached to go with her. In the dark hours she’d imagined this reunion moment so many times. Planned what she’d say, how he’d react. But never had she imagined this intense pain in her chest. Or the mind-numbing paralysis of being in the same room as him again.
She rubbed her hands down her skirt and looked up into his face. She knew it intimately, every curve, every plane. The face that stalked her dreams with alarming regularity even now.
And now he was here. What to say to the man you ran out on the night before your engagement party? Even if it was the most misguided, precipitous engagement in the whole universe.
Waking Up with His Runaway Bride by Louisa George