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Authors: Laurie Paige

Heartbreaker

BOOK: Heartbreaker
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CLUB TIMES
For Members' Eyes Only

Onstage Collapse Leads to Heart-stopping Romance

A
fter her devastating onstage collapse last month, sources tell us that world-renowned ballerina—and heiress to the Wainwright fortune—Susan Wainwright has been getting special treatment from top-notch surgeon Michael O'Day as she waits for a new heart. Ever since Susan was admitted to Houston General, Michael's notoriously ailing bedside manner has made a miraculous recovery. It seems the normally cocky, self-assured doctor is smitten with Susan and refuses to leave her side should she need any extra TLC. Even Susan's famous LSCC founding family cannot argue with the care she's been receiving and claim Michael's been an angel in disguise. I don't know about an angel, but he sure
looks
like heaven!

And, get this, members. Thanks to DNA and modern science, Tyler Murdoch, that mighty handsome military man, has been ruled out as daddy of the abandoned baby. Now that begs the question of just who is the father of this little girl and why has no one come forth to claim her? The Lone Star Country Club is no stranger to scandal, but this is certainly something to keep an eye on….

As always, members, make your best stop of the day right here at the Lone Star Country Club!

About the Author

LAURIE PAIGE

never knew what “wide-open spaces” meant until she moved to Texas. On a scenic drive from Austin to the Rio Grande with her husband, she realized theirs was the only car in sight on the road, which stretched from horizon to horizon in undulating hills. Wide-open, indeed! She loved living in the Hill Country and always took visitors to the Pedernales Falls for picnics in the summer, challenging them to a stone-jumping expedition across the river. Of course she knew the easiest route and reports she only fell in once. Okay, maybe twice. Returning to Texas for the LONE STAR COUNTRY CLUB series was a joy!

LAURIE PAIGE
HEARTBREAKER

Welcome to the

Where Texas society reigns supreme—and appearances are
everything.

Time is running out for a beloved Wainwright heiress….

Michael O'Day:
This arrogant top-notch heart surgeon is impossible to ignore—especially with his piercing blue eyes. But he's about to learn a lesson in humility when he falls under the spell of his courageous patient and is faced with the moral dilemma of a lifetime….

Susan Wainwright:
She refuses to let her medical crisis stop her from continuing to dazzle crowds as a star-studded ballerina. But when her pompous—potently sexy—doctor becomes personally invested in her case, she knows there is something more than ire smoldering between them. Will she place her fragile heart in his capable hands?

The Desperate Crime Lord:
Dying Mob boss Carmine Mercado is hell-bent on getting his hands on a donor heart and enlisting the skills of Michael O'Day to perform the risky procedure. And he won't think twice about resorting to menace, coercion and blackmail to further his agenda….

This book is dedicated to Steve and Jolene Thurman: thanks for sharing information, experience and expertise!

One

T
he twin engines of Michael O'Day's new plane purred steadily as he buzzed the field in preparation for landing at Mission Ridge, a “fly in, fly out” community on the outskirts of Mission Creek, Texas. A private shuttle was off to one side, passengers filing down the plane's steps. No aircraft were on the runway, and none was heading in for a landing, other than his.

From the air, he could pick out the home he'd purchased last year. It was a big house for a bachelor, not yet completely furnished, but he was pleased with it.

With the private airstrip practically at his door and the Lone Star Country Club golf links nearby, he could indulge his two favorite pastimes: golfing and flying. He planned to retire here.

But not anytime soon. At thirty-four, he had a ways to go before riding off into the sunset. However, with the new, faster plane, it would be a piece of cake to fly the two hundred fifty miles back and forth to Houston where he had a penthouse and an office. As a heart surgeon, he kept a busy schedule.

He set the nimble four-passenger plane down on the tarmac and taxied off the runway, heading for his hangar at the back of his two-acre lot. Instead of pushing the plane inside when he arrived, he left it on the apron. He was running late for lunch with his friend and golfing buddy, Flynt Carson. He'd take care of the aircraft later.

He dashed across the back lawn, activating the remote to open the door of the garage attached to the house. Inside, he swung his legs over the car door and into the seat of the low-slung convertible he kept at Mission Ridge.

Another indulgence, he admitted, but he didn't regret the cost. The time here in the heart of Texas ranching country gave him the necessary rest and relaxation to perform his surgeries with confidence. During his internship, a wise use of one's time had been stressed, over and over by his mentor, one of the foremost cardiac surgeons in the country.

Usually Michael flew in on Friday afternoon, but he'd been delayed by emergency surgery yesterday, then had overslept this morning, making him late taking off.

Checking his watch, he grimaced and turned the ignition key. He drove out of the garage, hit the button to lower the door behind him, glanced to his left and, seeing no traffic, gunned the engine.

And immediately threw on the brakes.

The car came to a screeching halt about six inches
from a tall, lithe beauty who was standing in the middle of the street. She turned flashing green eyes on him.

“You baboon!” she said in an angry, albeit melodious voice. “You shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel, driving like a maniac down a residential street.”

“Well, honey,” he drawled, amused and irritated by her lofty manner, “I didn't expect some female”—translation: some ditz—“to be sashaying down the middle of the street.”

“I am not ‘sashaying' down the middle of the street. I happen to be crossing it.”

He studied her, then glanced across the street and back to her. “You might not know it,” he mentioned in a helpful, philosophical tone, “but the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Going straight across the street gets you to the other side faster than ambling across at an oblique angle. It could also save you from getting run over.”

“And watching where you're going could save you from killing someone and getting thrown in jail.”

“A point well taken,” he agreed, unable to kill the grin. In blue slacks and a knit top that outlined her to perfection, she was very easy on the eye. Besides which, he'd always been attracted to women with fire.

He watched her march on across the street, her
head high, her light brown hair swinging about her shoulders. He'd never seen anyone move the way she did, with the grace and dignity of a fairy princess. And the righteous anger of a tent evangelist.

A name came to him. Susan Wainwright.

He'd never met her, but he'd seen her a few times onstage. She was a lead ballerina with the Houston Ballet.

Her sister had recently wed Matt Carson. A surprising affair, considering the Carsons and Wainwrights had been feuding for nearly as long as the Hatfields and McCoys, or so he understood. But Michael recalled hearing a rumor of a truce for the wedding.

Watching the delectable sway of her hips, he formed a new appreciation for a dancer's grace of movement. To his surprise, a vision came to mind—him and her in a wide bed, long legs wrapped around him—

Whoa!

Shaking his head, he forced those thoughts aside. “Hey,” he called, “you need a ride somewhere?”

Susan gave him a drop-dead glance. “No, thanks. Someone is picking me up.”

A fleeting notion indicated he'd like the “someone” to be him. Forget it, he advised. That little gal was a heartbreaker from the get-go. Besides, he wasn't looking for any lengthy entanglement. His life was fine just as it was.

Grinning at himself, he eased down on the pedal and left the enticing and oh-so-haughty beauty behind.

At the Lone Star Country Club, located deep in the heart of Lone Star county, he tossed the keys to the valet and dashed inside. The Yellow Rose Café was dark compared to the bright mid-September sunshine. He paused to let his eyes adjust.

“Michael, over here,” Flynt Carson called.

Michael had performed bypass surgery on Flynt's dad five years ago. He'd visited their family ranch many times since then. He and the two Carson brothers, Flynt and Matt, had become good friends.

“Hey, man, what's been happening?” Michael asked, taking a chair. A waiter hurried over with the menu and took his order for a tall glass of iced tea. “Not Texas style,” he added.

Texas tea could set a man on his rump after one glass of the potent blend of liquors with a smidgen of tea and fruit flavors to round it out.

Flynt grimaced when they were alone. “I guess you heard the news about Carl Bridges?”

“Yeah, I saw it on TV. Any more info on it?”

Flynt nodded. “Spence is keeping his cards close to his chest, but they have arrested someone.”

Spence Harrison was also a golfing buddy and the local district attorney handling the case.

“Anyone we know?”

“No. A member of the mob, I understand, but
don't quote me on that. It's all rumor and conjecture at present.”

“Mob” referred to the infamous Texas Mafia that comedians loved to make jokes about, such as: Did ya hear about the Texas mafia bank robbery? When they stood back to back, their spurs got stuck. They would have gotten away, but they couldn't decide who got to ride face forward on the getaway horse. Ha-ha-ha.

Murder was never a laughing matter, Michael mused, but this case had been particularly poignant. Only days before Carl Bridges's murder, his estranged son, Dylan, had come home; days later, he'd been a suspect in the crime. Thankfully, he was cleared.

A waitress appeared—Daisy, it said on her name tag—a Texas blonde with big hair and a twang so thick it made Michael smile each time he heard her speak. He and Flynt gave their orders for the chef's Saturday luncheon special.

Movement caught Michael's attention. A lithe woman in a blue summer outfit walked into his field of vision. She was with an older woman. Her mother, he assumed, because of the similarities in their facial structure.

A ping of interest coursed through him, a tiny hum of electricity that warmed him in spite of the fan circling over their table. The two women were seated on the patio overlooking the famous golf course.

“Susan Wainwright,” Flynt murmured, looking at the women, then back at Michael. “Her mother, Kate Wainwright.”

“Hmm,” Michael said noncommittally. The Wainwright name reminded him of another event. “How're the newlyweds?”

“Who knows? They haven't come out of their house yet,” Flynt said with a straight face, then laughed.

Michael chuckled with his friend. “I was sorry to miss the wedding. I heard it was exciting.”

“Yeah, but the real action was in New York, at Rose's aunt's place. It was a standoff, you might say. Justin Wainwright was threatening to shoot Matt after finding Rose had been…compromised. And I was determined to save Matt from himself. Rose's Aunt Beth distracted the warring parties while Matt and Rose slipped out and got hitched. Justin and I packed up our six-shooters and slunk home.”

Michael laughed, but he knew the Carsons and Wainwrights had once been great friends. Flynt's great-grandfather had even started this very country club with his best friend and fellow rancher, J.P. Wainwright, but a falling-out over a family scandal and water rights had started a feud that had lasted three-quarters of a century.

The things people fought over, Michael reflected in disgust. If people could see the life and death struggles he saw, they'd view things differently.

No thinking about that, he chided himself. This was his fun time. However, there was one more problem to be discussed that had nothing to do with cardiac surgery in Houston. “Any word on Lena?” he asked.

The shock of his life had occurred while playing golf back in May. Right here at the posh country club, on the ninth green, in fact, the golfing foursome had found an abandoned baby. The shock had come when all four men had been suspected of being the father. Worse, they'd all admitted it was a possibility. They'd each been involved in a more or less brief liaison the previous year.

DNA testing had already proved neither Flynt, Spence nor Michael could be the sire. That left the last man of the foursome, Tyler Murdoch, to be tested.

Since Michael had been filling in for Luke Callaghan, Luke was also a possibility. The note left with the baby had gotten wet, blotting out any name of the father. The only legible part had been, “I'm your baby girl. My name is Lena.”

Someone, the police had concluded, had been observing them play and had chosen the isolated ninth hole, where bushes screened a maintenance shed. Footprints indicated that someone had hidden there while watching them find the baby.

Flynt felt he needed to be the one to take care of the baby. The four of them had chipped in and hired
a private investigator to find the mother or father or somebody to claim the foundling.

“I do have some other news,” Flynt said, moving his hand when the waitress brought their food. “You recall we had to have Lena's DNA tested when we took her in for a thorough checkup so it could be matched to the father's?”

Michael nodded.

“They discovered she has some kind of anemia, thal—”

Daisy plopped Michael's plate down with a hard thunk. “Thalassemia,” she said in a low voice.

Michael caught distress vibes from her. Reaching back to his medical school days, he came up with a stray fact. “It's a type common to those of Mediterranean descent,” he explained to his friend. “Hereditary factors are definitely indicated.”

“Yeah, that's what the doctor told us,” Flynt said. He looked at Daisy curiously. “How did you know about the disease?”

“I got this friend,” Daisy said in her brash Texas hill country accent. “She has it.”

“Josie and I have been concerned about the effects on Lena's growth. Did your friend mention any particular difficulties with that?”

Flynt had hired Josie as a nanny for Lena, then ended up marrying her. Turned out, they were now expecting a little bundle of joy of their own. Fate
was a funny thing, Michael thought with a silent chuckle at his friend's expense.

His gaze was drawn to the Wainwright princess while Flynt and Daisy discussed the necessary testing that should be done regularly to watch for recurrences of the anemia in baby Lena.

Susan was listening to some male friend who had stopped by her table. From what Michael could discern, the man was posturing and showing off, bragging about his hole-in-one win over some friends. She was full of congratulations, smiling as if bestowing the gold cup on the guy. Michael suppressed a jab of irritation.

What did he care whom she talked to and flirted with?

He didn't, he told himself firmly. Ah, but she was easy to look at…

 

“Who is that man you keep looking at?” Kate Wainwright asked. “The one sitting with Flynt Carson.”

Susan jerked as if caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar. “No one.”

“An interesting nonentity,” her mother murmured. “He looks familiar. I'm sure I've seen him before.”

“I don't know his name,” Susan admitted, “but he nearly ran me over on the street near the airstrip.
I was on my way to the phone to give you a call and let you know I was in. We had words.”

Susan wished her mother wouldn't study the man quite so openly. She didn't want him to think they were interested in him in the least.

“Words?” her mother inquired.

“I called him a baboon and told him he shouldn't be driving, or something like that,” she reluctantly admitted.

Her mother looked from the man back to Susan, amusement in her eyes as if she laughed at something only she could see. Susan tried not to be irritated.

“He and his friend are leaving,” Kate reported.

Susan deliberately turned her chair toward the golf green beyond the patio so she wouldn't have to look his way. “Mmm,” she said.

“Oh, he's coming over.”

Susan jerked around. Sure enough, the impolite stranger was approaching their table.

“My, he's certainly good-looking,” Kate whispered. “Tall. And the bluest eyes. I've always liked blue eyes with dark hair. Such a handsome contrast.”

“Mother!” Susan whispered, reminding the other woman that the man was almost upon them.

“Hello,” he said, stopping by their table.

She nonchalantly glanced up at him. “The baboon.”

He laughed as if she'd said something witty, which made the heat rush to her face for some reason she couldn't fathom. Nor did he take the hostile hint to leave.

“I came over to apologize for my lack of manners when we, uh, first met,” he continued. “My only excuse is that I was running late.”

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