SNEAK PEEK: The Brooding Surgeon’s Baby Bombshell by Susan Carlisle

The Brooding Surgeon’s Baby Bombshell by Susan Carlisle

One night, unexpected consequences…!

But can they be a family?

After sparks fly with Dr. Gabriel Marks at a conference, nurse Zoe Avery’s left with a permanent reminder of their night together. Knowing Gabe doesn’t want kids, Zoe decides she’ll have the baby alone. Then Gabe moves to the same city just as pregnant Zoe needs a temporary home. Gabe comes to her rescue, but can they overcome their hurdles and become a family?


Their night of passion had started so innocently.

Dr. Gabriel Marks had taken the only open seat at the dining table. The attractive young woman he remembered from the committee meeting six months ago sat to one side of him. She smiled and said hello along with the rest of the committee members.

The committee chairperson had organized the dinner for those members flying-in that evening. The next day they would all be attending the meeting at the High Hotel at Chicago’s O’Hara Airport.

As a transplant surgeon, Gabe was honored to serve on the liver committee of the National Organ Allocation Network. The group met bi-yearly to discuss issues involving liver donation and policy. The professionals who made up the committee, including family members of patients, came from all over the country and represented different areas of liver transplantation. What they did was important and saved lives.

If he remembered correctly the woman dining beside him was Zoe ‘somebody,’ a registered nurse who worked for the Liver Alliance. He’d had some dealings with the group in the past regarding patients with special considerations, but he’d never met Zoe before joining the committee.

The discussion around the table was lively during their meal and he appreciated Zoe’s quick wit and infectious laugh. The next morning, they had acknowledged each with a warm hello but sat on opposite sides of the table during the six hour meeting. When Zoe had spoken up, her remarks had been intelligent, enlightened and spot on. He’d been impressed.

After the meeting adjourned he’d headed to the airport to catch his plane home. But his quick check of the flight board revealed his plane had been grounded because of thunderstorms. Gabe was watching the word “canceled” cascade down the panel when a groan of dismay had him turning around. It was Zoe.

She looked at him, her face screwed-up. “Sorry. I hadn’t meant to be so loud. This wasn’t in my plans.”

“It never is,” Gabe responded.

“You’re right about that.” She looked up and down the concourse.             “I guess I’m going to spend the night in the airport.”

“I bet if we hurry we can get a room in the hotel before everyone figures out what’s going on.” Gabe turned back the way they came.

“A room?” Her voice squeaked.

He gave her a pointed look. “I meant a room a piece. Are you always so literal?”

She grinned walking passed him at a fast clip. “I knew what you meant. I just wanted a head start if there was only one left.”

He chuckled and hurried to catch-up with her. A short time later they had rooms for the night. As they walked toward the elevator Gabe said, “I’m sorry, but I’ve racked my brain and still can’t come up with your last name.”

“Avery. Zoe Avery.” She chuckled. “That came out sounding a little James Bondish, didn’t it?”

He laughed. “Maybe a little bit. Would you like to meet for supper? Unless you have other plans.” He rarely had a night free of  paperwork and he wasn’t going to spend this one by himself.  Not when he liked this woman and was fairly confident she’d accept his invitation.

They entered the elevator. “What other plans would I have but to channel surf?” she’d answered with a grin.

Her mischievous talk appealed to him. As a transplant surgeon at a San Francisco Hospital he didn’t have many people in his life who dared to speak to him so freely. He’d found it refreshing.

The elevator opened. As she prepared to exit, he held the door. “Meet you at seven in the hotel restaurant?”

“There’s not a wife who’s going to be mad at me, is there?”  Her playful grin belied the serious concern in her eyes. Had a date lied to her about being married?

“No wife. How about your husband?”

“No. Not one of those either.” There was a sad note in her reply, yet she cheerfully confirmed, “See you at seven then.” She waved as he stepped out.

Gabe took a moment to appreciate the gentle feminine sway of her hips, anticipating the evening to come.

He was waiting at the restaurant entrance when Zoe strolled up. There was a bright smile on her face. “Sorry, I didn’t have anything else to wear.” She brushed a hand across the front of the simple navy dress she’d been wearing earlier in the day.

“You look great to me.” And she did. Something about her pulled at him. He wanted to know her better.

She grinned. “Thanks. You know the right thing to say to a stranded woman.”

He chuckled. “If we have to be stuck somewhere I’m glad it’s a place with hot running water.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t say food.”

“Now that you mention it, that’s important too. Our table won’t be ready for a few minutes. Would you like to wait in the bar?”

“Sure.” Zoe walked ahead of him. She was a tiny thing with a powerful personality.

He ordered their drinks and carried them to a small table. They sat and talked about that day’s meeting until the waiter came to get them.

Zoe stood, brushing against him as she moved to miss someone sitting next to them. Gabe’s blood heated. He had no doubt her movements had been unintentional, but his body reacted just the same. It had been some time since a woman had gotten to him on so many levels so quickly.

The waiter showed them to a corner table and handed them menus. They discussed what they would order and were ready when the waiter returned.

After he left Gabe remarked, “If I remember correctly you’re a patient advocate with the Liver Alliance and live in the Washington DC area.”

“That’s a good memory. I’m impressed. You were paying attention.”

Feeling ashamed he said, “Apparently not when you said your name.”

“It’s okay. It happens.”

“Do you like living in DC?” He didn’t normally quiz his dinner dates, but his curiosity about Zoe was uncharacteristically strong.

“I do. There’s always plenty to do. Museums to visit, music festivals and just the excitement of being in the center of our government.”

Her enthusiasm for the area was contagious.

She leaned back and looked at him. “And you’re from San Francisco. Pretty city.”

Obviously, she’d been paying more attention than he during introductions. “Yep.”

“That’s a pretty tough commute for these meetings.” She ran her finger down the side of her water glass leaving a trail.

What would it feel like to have her do that over his chest? He shifted in his chair. They were having dinner. That was all. They didn’t really know each other. “I try not to schedule surgery for the day I get back. It makes it easier to deal with the time change.” Gabe took a sip of his drink then said, “You seemed pretty upset about not flying out tonight.”

“Yeah. My mother has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s and I don’t like to leave her alone overnight. I’m worried she might not handle being by herself.”

“You worked it out?”

“I did. I got a friend to go over and stay with her.” Worry flickered in her eyes as she glanced away.

“I understand caring for someone with your mother’s illness can be difficult.” He was an only child whose mother turned to him often for help and emotional support, but she still possessed her mental faculties. If she didn’t and he had to provide her with constant care even while he traveled….

Zoe looked at him again, brow furrowed, “It is. I hate watching her wasting away. And good care is costly.”

“My mother is all I’ve got. My father died before I was born. I can only imagine how I would feel if she got sick.”

“Growing up without a father must have been tough. Do you have a stepfather?” Zoe seemed relieved by the change in subject.

“Nope. Mom never remarried.” He’d often wondered why. She’d always said it was because his father had been the love of her life, but he’d thought there might be more to it. As a kid, he had overheard her tell a friend she felt like she might be doing Gabe a disservice by not marrying again. That because of her decision he’d never had a male role model or father figure.

“She must be a great mom,” Zoe commented, bringing him back to the present, “You seemed to have turned out alright.”

His mother had been and still was a good mother, but truth be known his grandmother had been the primary adult during his formative years. His mother had worked fulltime to provide for him, “Thanks for saying so. But lately she’s been applying pressure to become a grandmother. It gets old.”

Zoe’s head turned to the side, her look turning quizzical, “You have no interest in making her one?”

“No. I’m not good family material. My job, my career, doesn’t leave me any room for a family. I’m far too busy. A wife and children deserve a full time husband and father. I decided along ago that drama wasn’t for me.”

A peculiar look came over her face but before he could ask what was wrong the waiter brought their meals. Zoe started talking about places she had visited and would like to go and he dismissed her unexplainable expression in favor of her entertaining conversation. When they were done with their meal, Gabe said, “It’s still early. Would you like to go to the jazz bar downstairs?”

She hesitated a moment.  It really mattered to Gabe that she say yes. She finally quipped, “Why not? It sounds like fun.”

Relief washed over him and he smiled. Why was it so important that she go? He placed his hand at her back and guided her out of the restaurant toward the circular stairs. His hand fit perfectly in the hollow of her back. At the club, he asked for a table close to the band.

They had been there a few minutes when Zoe touched his arm. She leaned in close and said into his ear, “I needed this. Thanks for asking me.”

He smiled, glad she was having a good time. His body tightened with awareness. It was over-reacting big time. Or was he overly conscious of his body’s natural response to an attractive woman he genuinely liked? They were both single and old enough to know their own minds so why shouldn’t they enjoy each other’s attention?

Several couples moved to the open area of the floor. On impulse Gabe asked, “Would you like to dance?”

“I’m not every good.” She sounded more disappointed than rejecting.

He stood and offered his hand. “You don’t have to be. Just follow my lead.”

Zoe smiled. One he would remember. “Hey, I can do that.”

Gabe held her hand as they stepped out onto the floor. Pulling her into his arms, his hand went to her waist. It was so small his arm almost wrapped all the way around her. The top of her head came to just below his chin. The sweet scent of her filled his head and his body stirred. He resisted the strong urge to pull her tight, but firmly squelched the idea. His arousal would be evident. This was the nicest evening he’d had in a long time and he had no intention of ruining it by scaring her off.

The sultry sound of the saxophone swirled around them.

She looked up, commanding his attention. “I’m impressed. You’ve a surgeon’s touch even on the dance floor, gentle and skilled.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” He brought her a little closer in spite of his resolve. There were other things he was good at he’d like to show her. He need to squelch those types of thoughts. Gabe missed a step.

Her hand squeezed his shoulder when she stumbled.

He looked at her, mumbling, “Sorry.”

“I’m sure it’s your partner,” she said.

Searching the depths of her eyes he muttered, “I assure you it isn’t.”

“I’ve not had much opportunity to dance since my prom, years ago.”

Her eyes were so green. “You’re doing great.”

She stared back. They continued to move slowly around the space. It wasn’t until there was a mumble encircling the room that he forced his attention away from her seductive gaze. The music had stopped. They were the only ones still on the dance floor.

Zoe looked around. Her cheeks were spots of red. “Ooopps. I guess we got carried away.” She focused on him. “It’s been a long day and time I head upstairs. It’s later in my time zone than it is in yours.”

“Okay.” Gabe hated to let her go. He held her hand as they returned to the table. She picked up her bag and he left a few bills on the table for their drinks. “I’ll see you to your room.”

Zoe grasped her bag with both hands. He would have like to have one of them in his. Somehow it seemed to belong there. What would she do if he kissed her? Would she push him away? Did he dare take a chance? He’d regret it if he didn’t.

They entered the elevator and rode up to her floor without a word. The need to touch her, hold her gnawed at him. Tension, thick as a wool blanket in the winter lay between them. She glanced at him once, her soft, questioning eyes uncertain. He was painfully aware of what he wanted but did she feel the same? The decision must be hers.

At her door, she pulled her keycard from her purse and turned to face him. “Thank you. I really enjoyed this evening. Especially the dancing.”

Was she flirting with him? Testing the water?

She gave him a long look as if reaching a decision. With a blink, her hands came to rest on his shoulders as she stood on her toes and kissed him.

That was all the encouragement Gabe needed. He grabbed her, jerking her against him, his mouth crushing hers, his tongue finding a warm welcome. Her arms wrapped his neck and she hung on during the most passionate kiss he’d ever received. He wanted her. Right now. Based on her actions she wouldn’t deny him.

He steadied her on her feet and growled, “Key.”

Zoe put it in his hand, her lips finding his again. He had no problem with that. Backing her against the door and with a minimum amount of fumbling, he managed to get the door opened and them inside.

It closed with a click behind them. Zoe’s legs wrapped his waist. His hands cupped her butt as he stumbled toward the bed, his blood boiling and his manhood rock hard.

He eased her down onto the mattress coming over her. Had he ever been this hot for a woman? Supporting himself on his hands, he searched her face. She stared back. He saw the second doubt crept in. Gabe gently kissed her. “I want you. Badly.”

Silent for a moment, she whispered, “Make me feel good tonight, Gabe. Forget everything.”

“Baby, I can do that.” His mouth took hers while his hands worked to remove her clothes.

She followed suit with equal frenzy. Her moans of desire combined with the kneading of her fingers on his bare back made him harder and hotter than he’d ever believed possible. Their mating was blistering, fast and very, very satisfying.

Hours later Gabe rolled over. His hand brushed warm soft skin. Zoe. His manhood thickened. He wanted her again.

“Mmm,” she murmured before her kisses teased his chest.

His hand skimmed the rise of her hip. “Damn, I don’t have another condom.”

Her hand brushed his length as she murmured, “I’m on the pill.”

Unable to go without her any longer, he saw to her pleasure then found his. Having no barrier between them felt so right.

When he woke again, Zoe was dressed and stuffing her belongings into her luggage. “Where’re you going?”

“I have to catch my plane.” Her back remained to him.

“You’ve already rescheduled?” He was still in a haze.

“They texted me.” She did glance at him then. “I have to go. I need to get home to Mom.”

Gabe could see the glass wall rising between them. Unbreakable. All the warmth they had shared last night was now frigid air. Zoe was embarrassed by her behavior. It shouldn’t bother him. He wasn’t looking for forever, but he didn’t like the idea of being something she regretted.


“I have to go.” She was out the door before he could untangle the sheets from his body.

You can purchase The Brooding Surgeon’s Baby Bombshell at:
Harlequin Books

About the Author:
Susan300In her past life Susan has been a full time mother to four children, a high school substitute teacher and now when she isn’t writing she is busy being a fun grandmother. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband of over thirty-five years. Susan loves castles, traveling, cross-stitching and reads voraciously. Visit her at

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