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Coming Home to Wed


Coming Home to Wed*

A jolt and a reverberating boom brought Marc out of his mental meanderings. "What the" Something had rammed his cruiser amidships, just behind where he sat at the helm. He flipped on the cargo lights and jumped off his seat to find out what idiot had run into him.

He bit back a curse. Out of the corner of his eye, Marc saw somebody slowly rise to stand, hooking an arm around the mast to steady herself on the canvas trampoline. Marc's frown deepened when her realized the one-man strike force was a petite blonde. What was she doing out here alone in a fog?

After a quick, horrified look at the mangled hulls of her boat, she let out a wail and fisted a hand in her unfettered mass of hair. "Oh, no!" Her gaze lifted to fix on Marc and she jabbed a finger at the damage to her prow. "Look what you did to my boat!"

Marc eyed her with annoyed disbelief. "How thoughtless of me to ram the side of my boat into the front of yours." He made the remark with distinct, sarcastic overtones. "Try to forgive me."

She ran a shaky hand through her hair, plainly agitated. "But--but this isn't even my boat!"

"I suppose you were just passing by when you heard the crash and decided to investigate?"

Her glance shot from the damage back to his face. "Not that I don't appreciate stinging satire!" she shouted. "But it's not particularly helpful at the moment." Making a pained face, she shook her head. "What am I going to do? I can't sail this thing back to shore like this! It'll sink!"

"I doubt that, but you won't be able to steer it," Marc said. Something dark began to ooze down her forehead and he experienced a prick of concern. "You're bleeding." He indicated the spot on his own forehead. "You must have hit your head."

"Of course, I hit my head! I was in an accident!" She touched the trickle and grimaced at the blood on her fingers. "This is just perfect!"

"I'd better take a look at it." He pulled some rope from a storage cabinet, deciding he had no choice but to tie the catamaran to his cruiser. He couldn't leave a bleeding, possibly concussed woman out in a fog on a damaged boat.

"Don't bother about me, mister," she called. "I can take care of myself."

After securing the rope to his cleat, he clambered over the side onto her damaged hull.

"What are you doing?" she demanded.

"Coming to check out your head."

"I don't have a head. This is a small boat."

"Not the bathroom," he said, trying to keep his voice calm. The woman was obviously addled. "Your head."

"I told you, I don't need--

"I heard," he cut in, leaping to the canvas trampoline to tie the other end of his rope to the tramp frame. After knotting the line, he faced her. "Keep still while I look at your cut."

"You're quite the masterful sea captain." She frowned at him. "Do you marry people on the high seas, too?"

Working to hold his temper, he indicated the canvas surface. "Sit down while I examine you?"

"Who do you think you are, ordering me around?"

"The guy you hit." He pressed on her shoulders. "Sit."

"Okay, but only because I'm a little--tired." She did what he asked, though clearly reluctant. He had a feeling the thump she took was starting to throb.

"You meant to say dizzy, didn't you?"

"No," she said. "I meant tired. I've been wandering around--for awhile. I got a little lost in the fog."

"And you could be a little unconscious in a few minutes if you've got a concussion." He knelt beside her and cleared the hair away from her injury. He took note of her hair, a golden blonde. Fishing around among the roots as he was, he could tell the color was natural, the texture, thick, and soft. He mentally shook himself. You're a doctor, man! Get on with the business of doctoring!

"A concussion?" she said with a short, caustic laugh. "That little bump? I've had worse jolts putting on straw hats."

He couldn't help the amused twitch of his lips. He had to give the sassy miscreant credit. She had spunk.

"Once in the Australian outback, I had to splint my own broken leg--with a couple of branches and a belt. So, you see, I can take care of myself."

Her broken leg remark surprised him. She was either delirious or a pretty salty storyteller. "That's very resourceful. And how do you treat your own comas?" he asked.

"I tell you, that cut is nothing!"

"You need stitches, Miss." He met her gaze and took singular note of her eyes. They were big and shiny and a striking silver-gray. Fortunately they showed no signs of brain trauma.

"Baptiste," she said, sounding a little less spunky. "Mimi Baptiste."

"Well, Miss Baptiste, how good are you at stitching yourself up?"

Her eyes narrowed with her wince.

"Did I hurt you?" he asked, reaching into his back pocket for his folded handkerchief.

"Only by being in my boat's way," she muttered.

He pressed the clean kerchief against her injury. When their glances clashed again, he presented Miss Beautiful-Gray-Eyes Baptiste with his most adamant professional expression. "Hold that there while I help you to my boat."

She stared at him. "Huh?"

He shook his head at her. "You need stitches, remember? I can't do that here."

"You bet your booties you can't, fella," she retorted. "I'm not in the habit of letting complete strangers, whose only recommendation is that they skulk around in fog banks, use a needle and thread on my head!"

He grasped her upper arm and stood, hoisting her to her feet. "Can you walk?"

"I'm not walking anyplace with you!" She resisted, but not strongly enough to get free of his hold. It was obvious she wasn't as steady as she'd like to be. Not to mention the little catamaran wasn't the most stable flooring in the world.

He tugged her along the short hull. It dipped precariously with their weight. "Let's do this quickly or we'll get a salty bath," he said. "Grab the side and I'll hoist you over."

She gave him a look that was far from cooperative. "I don't know you, buddy! If you think I'm getting into a boat with you, you're crazier than you look."

He grabbed the gunwale to steady them and faced her. "My name is Marc Merit. I live on an island, not far from here, and I'm a medical doctor." He dipped his head in a nominal and slightly mocking greeting. "How do you do? Now grab the blasted gunwale and climb into my boat before I lose my famous self-control and heave you over the side like a rock."

"I want to see some ID."

He stared at her in disbelief. "You want what?"

"ID, buster. Anybody can say he's a doctor. An ax murder can say he's a doctor."

"For that matter ax murders can be doctors." He pulled his wallet from his hip pocket. Flipping it open, he showed her his American Medical Association membership ID. "My ax murderer cards are still at the printer's."

She gave the ID a thorough once-over, then reached up to flip the plastic holders until she found his driver's license. For a long minute she scowled at the 'Marcus G. Merit, MD.'

"Well?" he coaxed.

She cast him a quick, sideways look, opened her mouth, then seemed to think better of arguing. "Okay, so you're a doctor," she grumbled. "But like you said, doctors can be ax murderers."

Marc flipped his wallet closed and replaced it in his pocket. "Yes, but statistically you have a better than even chance of running into a doctor who's more interested in keeping you well than hacking you up."

"That's charming!" Chewing her lower lip, she considered him. Marc had a feeling she was figuring her options. "I don't like it," she mumbled, "but I guess I don't have much choice." Grasping the gunwales she flung up a leg but wasn't quite able to get her deck shoe hooked over the top. Marc grasped her waist and hoisted her far enough so she could get her leg over, then returned his grip to the gunwale to keep from toppling into the ocean.

Once on board, Mimi straightened and steadied herself, replacing the handkerchief on her wound. Before she had time to turn and glare at him, he'd boarded and taken her by the arm. "Sit down. If you're going to faint, you'll be closer to the deck."

Though he didn't look directly at her, he could sense her glower as he guided her to the seat beside his at the helm.

"You have a captivating bedside manner, Doc," she muttered. "Where did you train, the Bevis and Butthead Institute for Sensitivity?

He slashed her an irritated glance. She was one of the most aggravating woman he'd ever run into--or more correctly, who'd ever run into him.

From the book COMING HOME TO WED, by Renee Roszel
Published by Harlequin books S.A. Copyright © 2000 by Renee Roszel
Publication Date (USA), May 2000, ISBN # 0-373-03603-5
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