There's not enough mistletoe in the world to tempt rescue medic Meg Miller to get anywhere near notorious heart breaker Dr. Dino Zinetti! Though her small son thinks the man's a superhero, Meg knows the truth--the incredibly sophisticated doctor would never look twice at a scruffy tomboy more comfortable up a mountain than in a dress.
But Meg has gotten under the normally unflappable Dino's skin, and he's not about to give up on her--however hard she fights their explosive attraction. This Christmas he'll teach Meg the meaning of romance...and receive a crash course in love himself.
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November 01, 2010
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Excerpt from Dr. Zinetti's Snowkissed Bride by Sarah Morgan
'I can't believe you f-found me. I'm s-so cold, Meg. Are we going to d-die?'
The boy's words were barely audible above the angry shriek of the wind and although she'd been standing still for less than two minutes, Meg could feel the icy fingers of cold reaching inside the padded layers of her high-performance jacket.
Normally she would have relished the opportunity to pit her wits against the vicious weather, but she hadn't planned on doing it with a badly injured teenager.
'We're not going to die, Harry. I can't possibly die yet because I haven't done any of my Christmas shopping...' She raised her voice so that he could hear her, knowing he needed reassurance almost as much as he needed emergency medical care. 'And there's a lump of mouldy cheese in my fridge I keep meaning to throw away. If my mum finds that, she'll kill me, so we need to get back home as soon as we can.' Ignoring the voice in her head reminding her that the wind chill decreased the temperature to minus fifteen and that the teenager had nasty injuries, Meg tore open the top of her backpack and dragged out the equipment she needed. 'I've called the rest of the mountain rescue team. They're on their way. In the meantime, I'm going to get you out of this wind and keep you warm.' As if challenging that promise, the wind gave a furious howl and buffeted her body. She reached out and steadied herself with her gloved hand, putting her body between the wind and the boy.
Behind them were snow-covered layers of jagged rock and beneath them the side of the mountain fell away into a deep ravine where icy water formed a death trap, waiting to finish off what the rocks and the wind had started.
Meg pulled the collar of her jacket over her mouth and tried to catch her breath, ignoring the nagging worry that it was going to be impossible to evacuate him from this treacherous site with the wind so high.
Her priority had to be shelter. The rest could wait. If she didn't get him out of this biting wind in the next few minutes, there wouldn't be anyone alive to rescue.
She gave a whistle and Rambo, her German shepherd search-and-rescue dog, nosed his way over to the boy and sat in front of him, offering still more protection from the wind while Meg found what she needed.
'Right, Harry, prepare for luxury.' She shouted to make herself heard. 'What we need now is a nice, warm living room with a roaring log fire and a pretty Christmas tree, but this is the best I can do at short notice.' She flipped the portable tent she'd removed from her backpack and for a terrifying moment the wind caught it and almost pulled her off her feet. 'Oh, for... I need to eat more chocolate. I'm not heavy enough.' As she felt her feet lift off the snow, Meg yanked the fabric hard and managed to anchor it. Within seconds she and the injured boy were inside. 'Unfortunately no log fire and no Christmas tree,' she panted, brushing the snow away from her face, 'but this is better than nothing. All right, now I can look at you. What have you been doing to yourself, Harry? You look like an extra from a cheap horror movie.'
It was worse than she'd thought. In the fading light she could see the wicked gash on his head and the purple bruising spreading across his skin.
Harry lifted his bloodied hand to his head. 'Is it bad?' 'I've seen worse.'
'But you work in the emergency department, so that's not much comfort. You see people with half their bodies missing.'
'You're going to be fine, Harry.' Meg pulled off her glove and undid the straps of her backpack. 'You're going to have a bit of a headache tomorrow, but it's nothing that a few days in bed won't solve.' She kept her voice matter-of-fact, but she was listening to his responses, watching for any signs of confusion or disorientation as a result of the head injury. 'Were you knocked out?'
'I--I think so.'
'Do you know what day of the week it is?'
'Yes, it's Sunday,' he mumbled, 'and I'm going to be in a shit load of trouble for going out into the mountains.'
'Harry Baxter, you are not supposed to swear in public.'
He closed his eyes and leaned back against her backpack. 'Aren't you going to yell at me and ask me what I thought I was doing, coming up here on my own?'
Aware that hypothermia could kill him long before the head injury, Meg was busy covering him with extra layers. Another scarf. A coat. 'That's your mum's line, sweetheart. Rambo and I just do the rescuing. We leave the lecturing to others.'
At the mention of his mother, Harry's face went from white to grey. 'She's going to be worried sick. I told her I was only going out for an hour.'
'Yeah, well, that's part of being a mum. Goes with the territory.' Meg examined the wound on his head, took a photograph with her phone and then covered the injury with a sterile pad held in place with a bandage.
'Why are you taking photographs of me?'
'Because it will save the trauma team having to remove the dressing to see the wound. Just a precaution.' In case he needed to be taken straight to Theatre.
The tent flapped against her and Meg pushed back against the fabric, relieved they had at least some protection from the raging blizzard. They weren't exactly cosy, but at least they were out of the deadly wind. 'When you're a mum, you sign up for worry on a long-term basis. Someone on the MRT will have called her and told her we've found you. There's not much else I can do for your head, so I'm going to take a look at this arm of yours now. Tell me what happened when you fell. Can you remember?'
'I slipped on a patch of ice and fell over the edge of the gully. I remember falling and falling and then I smacked my head against a rock.' The boy opened his eyes and looked at her dizzily. 'When I woke up I had blood on my face and my wrist was a really funny shape. I could see the bone.'
Meg kept her expression neutral. 'Right. Well, that's something we're going to need to fix. You can't go around with a wrist that looks like that--you'll gross everyone out.'
His face was a strange shade, now somewhere between white and grey. He clutched her arm with his good hand. 'I thought I was going to die on my own here. I couldn't believe it when I heard Rambo barking. You're so cool, Meg. Dog-girl.'
Meg moved aside the extra layers and gently pulled up the sleeve of his jacket so that she could take a better look at his injuries. 'Harry, when you're a bit older you'll realise that calling a woman "dog-girl" isn't going to win you hearts.' There was an obvious fracture of the bone, his wrist shaped like a dinner fork. 'I don't mind "wolf-girl" but I draw the line at "dog-girl", if it's all the same to you.'
'That's what I meant. I know that's what the mountain rescue team call you because you and Rambo are such a good team. And you're so fit--not fit as in fit...' He coloured, backtracking wildly as he realised how his words could be construed. 'I mean fit in the sense that you run up the mountains without even getting out of breath, and.. .I...' His voice tailed off and his eyes drifted shut.
'Talk to me, Harry!' Meg felt a stab of alarm as she looked at the bruising on the side of his face. 'Tell me what you want for Christmas.' Had he lost consciousness? Had he--?
'At the moment?' He kept his eyes closed, as if it were too much effort to open them. 'Just to be lying in my bedroom. I have a funny feeling I'm never going to see it again.'
'You're going to see it.' Meg dug her hand into her backpack and pulled out the first-aid kit she always carried with her. 'Although if your room is anything like my Jamie's, I bet you can't see the floor anyway. What is it about boys and untidy rooms?'
'I can find everything in the mess. I like mess.' His voice was faint. 'Meg?'
'Right here, honey.'
'We're not going to make it, are we? No one is going to be able to get us down from here. Tell me honestly--I really want the truth. I'm thirteen now, not a kid.'
Still a kid, Meg thought, a lump in her throat. 'We're going to make it, Harry. I promise you that.' But it wasn't going to be easy. Looking at his badly injured wrist and the swelling on the side of his face, she felt her heart lurch. There was no way she was going to be able to walk him off this mountain. And he was right about the bone. It was sticking out. She took another photograph for the trauma team, quickly emailed it to her colleagues in the emergency department and then covered the wound with a sterile dressing and bandaged it in place. Outside the tent the wind howled and suddenly she felt horribly alone. What had started out as a relaxed training walk for her and Rambo had turned into a deadly storm and a seriously injured casualty at risk of hypothermia.
If she hadn't decided to walk today...
Pushing aside that thought, she pulled out a thermometer and checked his temperature. It was dropping and she'd used every layer she had. She was just wondering whether she could risk giving him her jacket when she heard Rambo bark.
Meg felt a rush of relief. 'He's telling me that reinforcements have arrived. That must be the mountain rescue team. You just hang in there for a few more minutes, Harry. We're going to get you something for the pain and then get you out of this ravine.'
Tucking the coat around him, she went on her hands and knees and poked her head out of her tent. Through the swirling snow she saw powerful male legs, and then a man squatted down to her level and she found herself staring into glittering dark eyes that made her heart flip.
'Well,' he drawled, 'if it isn't wolf-girl.'
Meg was so relieved to see him that for once she didn't react. 'Dino, thank God you're here! Where are the rest of the team?'
'Just me so far.' His voice calm, he swung his backpack off his back. 'But quality is always better than quantity. Except in my case, you get both.' He gave her a sexy wink. 'Relax. What you need is a big, strong man and here I am so your worries are over, amore. I will handle everything now.'
Meg gave him a withering look. 'I'm not, and never will be, your amore. And I don't need you to handle anything. I can handle it myself. I've been handling it while you've no doubt been out to a fancy restaurant for Sunday lunch with some skinny blonde.'
With a maddening smile, he pushed past her into the tiny tent. 'She was brunette.'
'This tent isn't big enough for you and me,' Meg gritted, but he ignored her, his leg brushing against hers as he settled himself next to the injured boy. His wide shoulders pressed against the flimsy tent and there was barely room left to breathe, but that didn't seem to bother him. And, for once, it didn't bother her either. Not that she would ever have admitted it, but she was really relieved it was him.
Dino Zinetti might be too good looking for his own good, he might drive her crazy and make her feel horribly uncomfortable, but he was also a skilled doctor and an experienced mountaineer.
'You chose lovely weather for your trip, Harry.' He sat next to the injured boy, the same eyes that had been seducing her moments earlier now sharp and focused, the sexy smile replaced with a reassuring one. 'You seem to have got yourself in a spot of bother. You're lucky wolf-girl happened to be out today on one of her lone walks.'
Harry's lips were turning blue. 'I made a mistake. I called her dog-girl.'
'Ah...' Dino's eyes crinkled at the corners. 'In a couple more years I'll give you some tips on the right and wrong things to say to women.' His tone was relaxed and easy, in direct contrast to his fingers, which were working swiftly, checking pulse, pupils and other signs. 'Do you know if you knocked yourself out?' He questioned the boy, interspersing reassurance with questions designed to aid his clinical judgement.
'He might have done. GCS of fifteen when I got here but that's a nasty gash on his head. I think he needs a CT scan. Do you reckon the helicopter might still make it, or is the weather too bad?' Cramped in the confines of the tiny tent, Meg found it unsettling to be pressed so close to him. 'Are we going to have to wait it out for a few hours?'
'You want to leave this place?' Smiling, Dino checked Harry's pupils, asked him another couple of questions and then turned his attention to the broken wrist. 'Are you telling me this isn't the most romantic place you've ever spent a night? A beautiful woman, alone with two strong men?'
'One strong man. I don't think I count.' Harry gave a weak smile. 'You're pretty smooth, Dr Zinetti. When I'm older, I want to be like you.'
'Trust me, you don't.' Meg squashed herself against the tent to make as much space as possible. 'Not unless you want to walk around with a permanent black eye courtesy of all the women who have punched you. Dr Zinetti is Italian so that's how he gets away with being so politically incorrect. You don't have that excuse. And you do count, Harry.'
'I don't think so. I don't feel too good...' Harry's eyes drifted closed and this time didn't open again.
Meg felt her heart do an emergency stop. Instead of focusing on not allowing any of her body parts to touch Dino, she concentrated on Harry. 'He--'
'Take a breath, wolf-girl,' Dino said calmly. 'There's a spare jacket in my backpack and a space blanket. Get them both on him because his temperature is dropping and I don't want to add hypothermia to his list of problems. Time to call in the cavalry.' He reached into his pocket and pulled out a satellite phone while Meg tucked the extra insulation around the injured boy.
As Dino talked to the search-and-rescue team, giving GPS co-ordinates, she was thinking about how worried Harry's mother would be.