Dating The Millionaire Doctor

By: Marion Lennox

CHAPTER ONE




F IVE - MINUTE dating was five minutes too long. He’d dated nine women tonight, and the last was the least inspiring of the lot.

Jake glanced down at his fact sheet, hoping for help. Victoria. Twenty-nine. Single. There wasn’t a lot here to talk about.

‘I’m pleased to meet you, Victoria,’ he ventured. That’s terrific, he thought wryly. Snappy dialogue. Incisive. Excellent way to start things rolling.

‘My friends call me Tori,’ she ventured, dragging her gaze from the door. Was she thinking about escaping?

‘Is this your first try at speed dating?’

‘Yes. And you?’

‘Yes.’

This wasn’t exactly scintillating, he conceded. Where did he go from here?

Each of his last nine ‘dates’ had been vivacious and chirpy. He hadn’t needed to make an effort. Now, when effort was required, he wondered whether it was worth it.

Had Tori made an effort?

Victoria-or Tori-looked a real country mouse. She was wearing a knee-length black skirt, scuffed court shoes and a white blouse with ruffles down the front. Her chestnut-brown curls-had she cut the fringe herself?-had been pulled into a rough knot, simply tied with a white ribbon. She wore no make up and no jewellery.

Why was she here if she wasn’t prepared to spend some time on her appearance? he wondered. The lines around her clear green eyes were stretched tight, making her seem a lot older than twenty-nine years. But did she care? She looked as if she wanted to be here even less than he did, which was really saying something.

The manager of Dr. Jake Hunter’s Australian properties had promised Jake he’d enjoy it, but enjoy was so far off the mark Jake couldn’t believe it. But he was here. He was stuck. He had to make conversation.

‘So what do you do for a living?’

‘I care for injured wildlife.’

That’d be right. She looked like a do-gooder. Not that he had anything against do-gooders, he reminded himself hastily. It was just that she looked…the type.

‘So you’ll have been busy in the fires?’

‘Yes.’

And here was another conversation stopper. Six months ago wildfire had ripped this little community apart, decimating the entire district. As an outsider Jake didn’t know where to take it. Should he say something like, Was your house burned? Was anyone you cared about hurt?

Surely the fact that she’d come to speed dating was proof that it hadn’t touched her too badly. But don’t go there, he told himself, and he didn’t. Which left silence.

‘What…what about you?’ she asked, sounding desperate, and he thought, Three minutes and fifty seconds left.

‘I live in the U.S. but I own properties here, in the valley and up on the ridge. I’ve come back now to check on them, maybe put them on the market.’

‘Were they damaged?’

‘Not badly. My manager’s been taking care of them for me. He’s the one who talked me into coming tonight.’

‘So speed dating’s not your thing?’

‘No,’ he admitted, and decided to be honest. She looked the sort of woman who called a spade a spade. ‘Rob said you were a guy short. I got dragged into this at the last minute.’

‘You don’t want to be here?’

‘No.’

‘Then I’m wasting your time,’ she said, and suddenly the mouse had changed into something else entirely. Her relief was palpable. She rose and took his hand in a grip so firm it surprised him. ‘This is the last round so we can finish this now. Goodnight, Jake.’

Then, astonishingly, she smiled, a wide, white smile that had the power to turn her face from plain to something extraordinary. But he didn’t have a chance to register the smile for long. She’d released his hand and was heading for the door, her sensible heels clicking briskly on the polished wooden floorboards of the Combadeen Hall.

And to his further bewilderment, the moment she rose she looked…cute? Definitely cute, he thought. Her curls bounced on her shoulders. She had curves in all the right places, the badly fitting skirt unable to conceal her tiny waist, the lovely lines of her legs and the unconscious wiggle of her hips as she stalked to the door.

He wasn’t the only one watching. As she tugged the door open and walked out into the night, as the door slammed closed behind her, he realised everyone else in the hall was looking as well, as astonished as he was.

He’d just been stood up for a speed date. He’d been stood up by a smile that was truly stunning.

Should he follow?

Um, no. She was right. Speed dating was not his thing.

Nor was any other sort of dating, he acknowledged. He was in town to check on his father’s property, to sign documents to put the farmhouse on the ridge on the market and to make a decision about the resort. Then he was out of here. His job back in the States was waiting. He had no place here.

So why was he watching a country mouse stalk away from him, as if he cared?



Why had she come?

Her best friend, Barb, had lied to her. They can’t have been a woman short if that guy-Jake?-could patronise her by saying he was only here to make up numbers, to do them all a favour.

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