Secrets and lies tore them apart. Can love and forgiveness bring them back together?
Michelle Carter has been down on her luck since the day she was born. So it comes as no surprise when through a series of unfortunate events, she finds herself jobless, penniless, and practically homeless. In a desperate attempt to get back on her feet, Michelle accepts a job as a nanny and finds it absolutely impossible to resist her handsome, sexy billionaire boss—but resist she must for as long as she could, especially since she’s keeping secrets from him.
Believing that his late wife betrayed him with another man, falling in love again is the last thing Dr. Erik LaCrosse wants to do. But fall, he does, and so hard, he secretly marries the alluring nanny from the wrong side of the tracks. However, when he unearths a disturbing secret from Michelle’s past, Erik must choose between his loyalty to a dead woman and the love burning in his heart for one who is very much alive.
THE DOCTOR'S SECRET BRIDE EXCERPT
"You know what, Daddy?” Precious beamed from the opposite side of the dining table.
Erik smiled at the enthusiasm in his daughter’s eyes and voice. Since they sat down to eat, she’d been talking nonstop bringing him up to date on her exciting afternoon with her new nanny. “What, sweetheart?” he asked, wiping his mouth with his napkin and placing it on his lap.
“Michelle pushed me so high in the swing, I almost saw Grandpa Erik and Grandma Danielle all the way in Granite Falls.”
“Wow, that’s amazing. I didn’t know Michelle was so strong. I guess we got us a super nanny, huh?” He winked at Michelle.
“Yeah, we have a super nanny. She’s the bestest, funnest nanny ever.”
The joy in his daughter’s eyes filled Erik’s soul with gratitude. He smiled at Michelle, hoping she understood what she’d done for him, for them.
“I think you should wait a while before you go handing me a diploma,” she said.
“What’s a diploma?” Precious asked.
As Michelle explained what a diploma was, Erik looked around the elaborately decorated room with its Waterford chandeliers and gold cabinets filled with priceless ornaments Cassie had collected over the years.
It had been a while since he’d taken a meal in here. He and Precious usually ate at the kitchen table, something Cassie would never have approved. She was all about prestige and appearances, the very lifestyle he’d been trying to escape when he left Granite Falls. The table had always been laden with gourmet dishes on Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. They’d always had friends and family with whom to enjoy the elaborate meals. But since her death, he and Precious either went to his mother’s on the other side of town, or up to Granite Falls, his hometown, a three-hour drive north of Manchester.
The dining room had become a passageway from the kitchen to the family room. This afternoon, for some inexplicable reason, Erik had called Mrs. Hayes from the hospital and asked her to set the table for dinner. A faint smile ruffled his lips as he recalled that conversation.
“The formal dining room, Sir?”
“Yes, the formal dining room, Mrs. Hayes, where people sit down around a table and share a meal together.”
“And how many people will be sharing a meal, Sir?”
“Are you bringing a guest for dinner?”
“Tell Ms. Carter I expect her to dine with Precious and me tonight.”
As he gazed at Michelle talking so naturally and easily with his daughter, Erik wondered about his decision. Was he trying to impress her? And why? They were sitting around a dinner table like some normal happy family. He at the head, Michelle at the foot, and Precious across from him—the way it used to be when Cassie was alive. It was a good feeling. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this… well, content. He could say it’s because Michelle had made Precious laugh. But Michelle had made him laugh, too. Really laugh.
He’d been closed and guarded for the past two years, and when he’d let his guard down this afternoon, he’d rediscovered something he lost the night Cassie died—his vulnerability. The thought of opening up himself and letting someone in both scared and thrilled him.
As the conversation about diplomas wound down, Erik caught Michelle’s gaze. “Why aren’t you eating?” he asked. She’d been twirling the stew around in the bowl since they sat down. He was on his second helping of the delicious stew and Precious was almost finished with her first. Michelle had eaten two slices of sourdough bread, and two servings of the garden salad, but she hadn’t taken one single bite of the stew. “Is it not to your liking?”
“I don’t eat red meat,” she said.
“Are you a vegetarian?”
“No, I just don’t eat beef.” She set the spoon down, seemingly relieved that she didn’t have to pretend anymore.
“Is there a specific reason you don’t eat beef?”
A cold chill ran up and down Erik’s spine. Was Calvin her boyfriend? He’d forgotten to ask her if she were currently involved with anyone. He’d asked for someone older to avoid a repeat of the nanny taking off when she decided to start her own family. He didn’t want his daughter disappointed again. He took a quick glance at her and recalled the excitement with which she’d shared the stories of her afternoon with Michelle. She was already in deep.
He’d been so distracted by the effect Michelle had on him, he’d forgotten to ask her the most important question of the day. He couldn’t very well ask her if she had a boyfriend in front of his daughter, so he asked, as placidly as he could, “Who’s Calvin?”
A slow smile broke across her lips as if she knew the real question plaguing him. “A bull calf. Like in cattle.”
Calvin was a bull. Erik let out his breath. “Where did you meet, uh—Calvin?”“A few years ago, I stayed on a farm that my friend’s family owned. I got very attached to this one bull that I named Calvin. He had the most pitiful eyes, like he knew what would happen to him. I used to wish I had a house with a big backyard so I could adopt him. I promised him that as long as I lived, I would never eat beef again. For a long time after I left the farm, every time I smelled burgers or steaks cooking, I would think of him.”
“Yuck!” Precious dropped her spoon and spat a mouthful of stew back into her bowl.
“Precious, mind your manners,” Erik said.
“But we could have just eaten Calvin, Daddy.”
Michelle shook her head hastily. Her conviction was hers alone. She had no wish to convince Precious or anyone else to adopt her belief. “No, baby,” she said smiling at the little girl. “Calvin was rescued by a nice man who took him far away to another farm where he fell in love with a beautiful cow named Izzy.”
“That’s sweet,” Precious said. “And they had lots and lots of baby cows and lived happily ever after, just like Cinderella and the Prince.”
“Just like Cinderella,” Michelle acquiesced, relieved at Precious’ naivety. She really had to watch what she said around the child. She was hired to babysit her, not indoctrinate her.
“How many babies did they have?” Precious asked, biting into a slice of bread.
“Well, I’d say...”
Feeling quite uncomfortable with talk about love, babies, and happily ever after, Erik tried to tune out the exchange between his daughter and Michelle. Love, babies, and forever was what he’d hoped for when he married Cassie.
If it hadn’t been for that drunk...