Dorinda and the DoctorBy: Sabrina Jeffries
To the wonderful Dru and the crew at my local Starbucks who keep me well supplied with iced coffee and everything bagels. You are true gems, every one of you! Thanks for letting me hang out and write.
To my niece Isabel “Isa” Martin and my nephew Craig Martin, thank you for brightening my days.
And to my brother Daren Martin, whose sage advice at a crucial point in my marriage altered my life forever. Thank you, and I love you.
EARLY ON A fine Monday morning, Mrs. Dorinda Nunley let herself in through the side door of Dr. Percy Worth’s abode, which he leased from Dorinda’s distant relation, the Duke of Lyons. Lisette, the duke’s new wife, had sent her over here with the key to set the place to rights while the doctor was out of town, but it still felt oddly intimate to invade his domain.
At least she wasn’t entering the living areas. This part was his office, though apparently he didn’t see patients in it. No need, for they were all members of the ton, not surprising for a physician who was presently the toast of London.
After removing her bonnet, Dorinda set it on a nearby highboy and surveyed the place. Clearly the man spent little time here, or else how could he abide such clutter? There were boxes only half-unpacked from when he’d taken up residence eight months ago after years as a ship’s doctor. A full skeleton lay crumpled upon a chair, and jars and vials were jumbled up on a table, as if he rifled through them whenever he needed something.
Well, when she was done with this place, he would never have to hunt for anything again. She hated to admit it, but she was secretly looking forward to making herself useful to him. Though she disliked doctors as a rule, he’d been nothing but amiable to her, and for that he deserved to have an orderly place of business. Even if it did remind her of a difficult time in her life.
Setting her shoulders, she headed for the table and nearly tripped over a black satchel. She stared at it dumbly. It looked like the one he carried sometimes when he came to see how the duchess was faring in her pregnancy. But why would it be here? He was supposed to be—
Just at that moment the door swung open, and awareness dawned. Before she could so much as squeak a warning, the good doctor entered the room, wearing nothing but a half-open banyan and a pair of drawers.
He stopped short, his dark-brown eyes widening. “Mrs. Nunley?”
Oh dear oh dear oh dear. “Good morning, Dr. Worth,” she said inanely.
Heaven help her, she’d never seen the doctor in dishabille. She’d never even seen him in shirtsleeves. She’d always thought the doctor very attractive with that finely carved jaw and expressive mouth, but she’d never guessed what lay beneath his clothes. Of its own accord, her gaze swept down to take in his chiseled chest and lean stomach and the thin line of hair leading down to—
She jerked her mortified gaze up to meet his astonished one. “What are you doing here?” she blurted out.
Amusement leapt into his face as he discreetly pulled his banyan closed. “I live here. And you?”
This couldn’t be happening! “Her Grace said you were going to the country to attend a countess in her birthing,” she babbled. “You’re not supposed to be here!”
“Which is why you felt free to stop by and look around?” he asked, a smile crooking up one corner of his mouth.
To her horror, her cheeks heated like a foolish schoolgirl’s. “Don’t be absurd.” But she was the absurd one. She should never have come so early. She should have knocked. She shouldn’t have been caught gawking at a half-naked man.
Especially this particular half-naked man. She’d spent too much of her seven-year marriage enduring the arrogant doctors her husband had charged with curing her “barrenness” to find a physician remotely attractive. Yet she did, and had for months now. It was most annoying. And when his gaze lingered on her mouth, making her swallow hard, she wanted to turn tail and run.
Or stand still and let him catch her. She grimaced. What a ridiculous thought! He wasn’t interested in “catching” her. Was he? Then he lifted his gaze from her mouth, and she cursed her dullness. He wanted an explanation, of course.
“The duchess has been so kind to me since Edgar died that I asked if she needed assistance with anything, and she sent me here to help organize your office. She said she offered to do it for you while you were out of town, but now found that she couldn’t manage it.”