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The last thing Jessica Donaldson expected to find in her bed on a stinking hot morning was a naked man. And certainly not this particular manthe source of every one of her feverish fantasies for the last three and a bit years.
Dr Adam Carmichaeloccasional housemate, surgeon extraordinaire, playboy incarnate.
For a moment she wondered if her sleep-deprived brain had conjured him up. Was she that tired after her midnight call-in and subsequent eight hours of surgery she'd actually imagine a man in her bed?
And not just any man but Adam?
Wasn't he operating in some Third World country or schmoozing bigwigs at The Hague? She shut her eyes, shook her head to clear the fog of fatigue and opened them again. Nope. Still there. And still most definitely Adam.
Jess stood in the doorway, wrapped in nothing but a towel, droplets of water clinging to her undried skin. Suddenly she was very awake. A frigid blast of air from the wall-mounted cooling unit enveloped her, soothing a fiery blush.
The sheer perfection of his body momentarily distracted her from the fact that he was in her bed.
Naked. She'd never had a man in her bed, naked or otherwise, and her breath quickened that the first time it had happened fate had delivered her the man of her dreams.
Would it be wrong to look her fill? Jess prided herself on having a strong moral code. There'd never been a cause to question it before. But.
The morning sunlight poked insistent fingers into the darkened room from around the edges of the blackout blind, illuminating his deep golden tan to perfection.
And he was in her bed.
So she looked her fill.
Adam lay on his stomach, his sandy blond head turned away from the window. Both arms were spread out, easily reaching the sides. His back was a tantalising palate of planes and angles, broad across the shoulders, tapering down to the dip of his back and the rise of his bottom.
The floral sheet had been pulled up to his hips. One leg was firmly entangled but the other had freed itself, causing the sheet to slip slightly and partially reveal a glimpse of naked buttock in all its tanned glory. It was firm, well defined, despite his slumber, and, she noted, the same nut brown as the rest of his body.
He obviously sunbaked naked as well.
Her gaze continued down his exposed leg. It was firmly muscled and deeply tanned. A covering of blond hairs added to its masculinity and Jess followed its length right down to the toes that stuck out over the end of the bed.
She drew in a ragged breath. How was it possible to look so masculine amidst floral sheets?
She knew for a fact he had navy satin sheets on his bed. She'd seen them hanging on the line once. Her dreams had featured an awful lot of satin ever since.
Adam chose that moment to move and Jess froze like a deer caught in headlights. What if he woke and caught her ogling him? But she just didn't seem able to stop. She watched in fascination as the previously dormant muscles in his back and arms tensed and rippled, assisting the move onto his back.
Jess held her breath.
Luckily, his subconscious chose to roll the way it did as his entangled leg dragged the sheet across his hips and legs, concealing his modesty from her gaze. But that still left a whole lot of male flesh on view.
One arm, bent at the elbow, was flung above his head, emphasising a taut bicep. His strong jaw sported a sprinkling of dark blond three-day growth as her gaze traced the fascinating contours of his full mouth.
A thatch of soft-looking underarm hair barely registered as the firmness of his beautifully tanned, smooth chest drew her gaze lower. It tapered down to a set of abs that would have been perfectly at home on a Rodin statue.
A trail of darker brown hair bisected his six pack. Jess's throat felt as dry as two-minute soup mix.
She didn't dare look any lower.
Not that she was any stranger to naked men. As a nurse, it was an occupational hazard. And as a country girl, nature, in all its forms, had infused her life.
But he wasn't one of her beloved patients. Or a prize-winning bull.
He was an entirely different proposition.
And this was voyeurism. Jess mentally shook herself. What the hell was she doing? The man was twelve years older than her and a total sex god. He was completely out of her league.
Not to mention Ruby's brother.
Oh, and her landlord!
But what the hell was she supposed to do now? He was in her bed.
Her bed. A bed that she would very much like to be in herself, getting some much-needed sleep.
A bed she'd been daydreaming about all the way home as each footstep down the hill from the hospital had brought her closer to home.
A bed she could almost feel beneath her as she'd pushed open the front door and headed straight for the shower, dunking herself quickly under the cool spray to remove all traces of hospital. Why the hell was he in her bed?
He had a perfectly good one of his own. She'd never seen it, never even peeked inside his bedroom, but it was there, opposite the kitchen door, always taunting her.
When he was away, which was often, the door was always shut. When he was home it opened and shut with monotonous regularity as a procession of women came and went.
He really should just install a revolving one and be done with it.
So, why was he camped out in hers?
She should wake him, demand to know what he was doing.
But how? Call his name? Shake his shoulder?
Her breath caught in her throat as the thought shocked and tantalised in equal measure. Her pulse had doubled just scrutinising the man in her bedwhat the hell would happen to her if she should actually touch him?
Touch a naked shoulder?
She recoiled from the very idea, her fingers curling into her palms. It was too much to even contemplate.
She sighed. There was nothing she could do. Ruby and Tilly had both finished night duty this morning and would be snoring their heads off in their beds. And Ellie was on afternoon shift and wouldn't be up yet.
It wasn't fair to disturb any of them.
She was going to have to go and sleep on the couch. In the non-air-conditioned lounge room. On a day that was tipped to reach forty degrees. And already felt like double that.
While Adam Carmichael slept in temperature-controlled comfort.
In her bed.
If she didn't have a massive crush on him and wasn't such a goody two shoes she'd have tossed him out on his ear. But he looked so peaceful. Not to mention sexy as hell. And at least she'd have actual fodder for her fantasies now instead of just a series of creative imaginings.
The image of him tangled in her sheets was going to stay with her for ever.
But she needed her clothes and they were in her room. Jess sighed. There was only one thing for it
She dropped her bag quietly just inside the door and checked that her towel was firmly tucked. The last thing she wanted was to have a wardrobe malfunctionone naked person in this room was enough!
Jess tiptoed into the room, unable to drag her eyes from the steady rise and fall of Adam's chest.
That was her first mistake.
She promptly tripped over one of the numerous embroidered throw cushions that usually sat on her bed and which Adam had obviously tossed on the floor. She clutched at her cleavage where the towel end was firmly tucked as she stumbled perilously close to the edge of the bed before righting herself.
Her heart hammered wildly in her chest and she didn't move for a full minute in case just disturbing the air currents around the bed might cause him to waken. Finally, convinced he was sleeping soundly, she forced herself to watch her step instead of Adam as she continued towards her goal.
There were no built-in wardrobes in her room, just an old-fashioned art deco one that stood against the wall next to the bedside table. It belonged to her grandmother who'd insisted she bring it with her to the big smoke to remind her of home. It was beautifully crafted from dark wood with curved top edges and a full sized bevelled mirror between the two polished doors. Jess reached it without further incident and held her breath as she turned the key in the lock. The quiet scratch of metal on metal seemed amplified tenfold and when the door opened it creaked like a coffin lid in a horror movie.
Jess froze behind the door, waiting for Adam to stir, but a quick peek confirmed the noises hadn't disturbed him.
That was her second mistake.
As he slumbered blissfully on, his lips snagged her attention. They were full, parted slightly and looked, oh, so soft. The stubble that framed them looked deliciously scratchy and she wondered how the soft/rough combination would feel against her own mouth? Jess swallowed.
How would it feel to be the one allowed to kiss that mouth?
Adam shifted slightly and she ducked behind the wardrobe door again like a nervous Victorian maiden. But not before she noticed her pyjamas peaking out from the pillow beneath his head.
Cowering behind the door, her heart fluttered ten to the dozen as she actually considered, for one crazy second, trying to retrieve them.
But that would be a third mistake.
And there were plenty of things she could wear right here in her wardrobe. Her hand shook as she slowly pulled open a drawer and extracted a pair of white cotton knickers and a white cotton, knee-length nightie. Her mother had embroidered tiny yellow daises around the modest neckline.
From habit she sank her face into it. It smelled of sunshine and home and a fierce shaft of nostalgia pierced her right through the heart. For a moment she wished she was back there. Where things were simple.
Where Adam couldn't possibly be in her bed.
No matter how many times she'd fantasised about waking up with him, in her childhood bedroom, unchanged since she'd been seven years old, and her desires had been as innocent as Black Beauty wallpaper.
There was nothing innocent about her desires now.
She sighed inwardly as she shut the drawer carefully and then reached for her deodorant. Her still trembling fingers fumbled it and it thunked against the shelf. She made a grab for it as it rolled off the edge but it was already falling. It landed on the polished hardwood floor at her feet with a crash loud enough to wake the dead.
Or the devil anyway.
Adam sat bolt upright in bed, the sheet ruching around his waist. 'What the hell ?'
Jess opened her eyes and poked her head around the edge of the door. 'Sorry,' she apologised. 'I didn't mean to wake you.'
Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear. He was utterly magnificent.
His sandy blond hair, beyond messy, somehow cornered the market on sexy. His chest and six pack were beautifully delineated. He looked like he'd just come from riding waves in Hawaii instead of another humanitarian mission.
Jess hastily averted her eyes, chiding her lack of decorum. He was a brilliant surgeon doing vital work. Not a male centrefold.
Adam frowned, his brain heavily mired in the sticky web of jet lag. He really was getting too old for continually mixing up his time zones. Too old for running away.
He blinked in case he was imagining her because this was not the Jess he remembered. Sweet Jess with the cute ponytail. Jess of the bare feet, jeans and T.
He'd never seen her with her hair all loose around her shoulders like this.
Or in nothing but a towel for that matter.
What the hell was she doing in his room? 'What are you doing here?'
Jess swallowed as he pinned her with his lapis lazuli gaze. It was too dark to see them but she knew from detailed memory that the blue was flecked with golden highlights. He rubbed at the tantalising stubble at his jawline. The delicious rasping noise sent Jess's stomach into freefall as the image of him scraping it against her belly took hold.
'Er ' Jess felt unaccountably nervous and hopelessly gauche in the face of his potent male virility. Which was utterly ridiculous. Adam was hardly leering at her. In fact, he was frowning at her like she was an annoying little insect that had dared to wake him up.
Instead of an almost naked, fully grown, nearly twenty-four-year-old woman.
She'd seen the way he looked at women. He was not looking at her like that. He'd never looked at her like that.
She doubted her chastity was under threat. Jess cleared her throat. 'Ah this is my room.'
Adam's frown deepened as her response registered. He looked around. Too-small bed, scatter cushions all over the floor, floral sheets. Romance novel on the bedside table.
Then it all came flooding back to him. The air-con in his room deciding to choose this sweltering day to break down. One on a list of many ailments suffered by his poor, neglected house.
The repairman not being able to get here until ten. His overwhelming weariness.
Adam ran a hand through his hair as the cogs slowly started to turn. 'I thought you were on an early today. That's what the fridge calendar says.'
Early on in their cohabitation the girls had devised a colour-coded system to keep track of each other. With four people coming and going on shift work, it made things much easier. Her roster was in yellow.
Jess frowned, wishing his logic was as easy to follow as the flex of his biceps, the path of his fingers. ' So you decided to try out my bed?'
Her heart beat double-time at the illicitness of her suggestion.
Adam pressed the pads of his fingers into his eye sockets. 'So the calendar's wrong?'
'No. It's right. I was called in last night, though I only clocked off half an hour ago.'
'Oh ' Adam felt his interest pique despite the heavy cloak of fatigue. 'Anything interesting?'
Jess couldn't believe she was having this conversation.
In her room. In a towel. With Adam. In a sheet. 'Liver transplant.'
Jess waited for something more forthcoming but Adam collapsed back against the mattress, his abs unfurling like flower petals, his eyes closed.
Oh, brother! He really did look centrefold material now, reclining in her bed as if he owned it.
'Adam!' she said, still not game enough to touch him.
Adam, already falling back into the blissful folds of sleep, prised his eye open. He raised himself slightly on bent elbows. 'What?' he demanded crankily.
It hadn't been her plan to wake him up but now he was he could damn well vacate her bed. 'Why are you in my bed?'
Harlequin; November 2011 192 pages; ISBN 9781459216143 Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Waking Up With Dr. Off-Limits
Author: Amy Andrews