Surgeon in a Tux(5)

By: Carol Marinelli


‘It looks so much better but—’

‘Just let it settle and I’ll see you in a couple of days and we’ll start with ointments and massage, but for now I just want the wound left. How are you?’

‘I don’t know,’ Jessica admitted. ‘The thing is …’ She glanced over at Lizzie and when it was clear that she’d prefer privacy Lizzie made her excuses and left.

‘How is she?’ Leo was walking past as Lizzie came out.

‘Sorry?’

He nodded in the direction of his office and Lizzie followed. The corridor was perhaps not the best place to speak. ‘How is Jessica?’ Leo clarified. ‘I was going to suture her when she came in but I knew it was going to take hours and I had a function to attend …’ He watched as Lizzie’s lips tightened a fraction. ‘You’ve been spending far too long listening to my brother about me.’ Leo gave a wry smile. ‘Anyway, Iain is brilliant for that type of injury. I’m just interested to hear how Jessica is.’

‘Her sutures are out,’ Lizzie said. ‘She’s just speaking with Iain. I think she wanted me to leave.’

‘You don’t recognise her, do you?’

‘Should I?’ Lizzie said, and then her eyes widened as she recalled the news last week and realised she’d just been looking after the wife of a celebrity who’d been taken in for questioning after a heated argument with his wife.

‘From her injuries I thought she must have been in a car accident.’ Lizzie closed her eyes for a moment. ‘I thought that working here would be …’ She halted, realising Leo might not be the best person to reveal her thoughts to, but he was already one step ahead.

‘You thought that it was all fake boobs and antiaging?’ Leo finished for her. ‘Domestic violence isn’t just for the working classes.’

‘I know.’ Lizzie’s voice was rattled, cross, but more with herself because, yes, Leo was right, people assumed that if you were rich and beautiful of course those sorts of things didn’t happen and so, when they did, it was somehow more shocking.

‘You’ll know it for certain after a couple of months here,’ Leo said. ‘Right, would you mind stepping outside and then walking in again?’ He saw her confusion. ‘I’d like to start again.’

‘It’s really not necessary.’

‘It really is,’ Leo said. ‘Go on, knock and this time wait till I call you in.’

‘This is ridiculous,’ Lizzie said, walking out and closing the door. She knocked and waited for his summons.

‘Come in.’

But kind of fun, Lizzie decided as she opened the door to his smile.

‘You must be the new head nurse.’ Leo stood from his desk, walked over and shook her hand.

‘You must be Mr Hunter.’ Lizzie smiled. ‘It’s lovely to meet you … Oh, what on earth happened to your cheek?’

He smiled, and Lizzie’s stomach did what it had done at the door to the changing room and simply folded over on itself.

‘Oh, that,’ Leo said. ‘Just a little tumble, skiing.’

‘Ouch.’ Lizzie winced. ‘Poor you!’

Then Leo was serious. He offered her a seat and moved behind his huge walnut table. It really was a lovely office, which looked out onto Harley Street, and Lizzie had to snap her eyes back to Leo when he spoke as she found herself staring out of the window, unable to believe she was actually here.

‘I think you’ll enjoy working here,’ Leo started. ‘I have an amazing team —all the staff I have personally chosen for their excellence. From surgeons to receptionists I have hand-picked each one.’

‘Except me.’

She didn’t mince her words, Leo noted.

‘Except you,’ Leo admitted. ‘But, then, I trust my brother’s judgement.’ He didn’t add it had been a condition of Ethan’s that if he was to take the role then Lizzie must be employed. ‘So, what made you want to work at the Hunter Clinic?’

Lizzie wondered just how honest she should be—she could hardly admit that it was the dazzling salary that had first attracted her. Neither could she say that the chance for an apartment in such a beautiful part of London had been too good to pass up and that the chance to finally get ahead financially had clinched the deal for her.

‘It’s a very prestigious clinic,’ Lizzie settled for instead.

‘It is.’ Leo’s eyes never left her face. ‘You haven’t worked in cosmetic or reconstructive surgery, though?’ he checked, and watched as her cheeks darkened. ‘What attracts you to it?’

‘People like Jessica,’ Lizzie answered. ‘It’s wonderful that such an appalling injury—’

‘I’m talking about the cosmetic side of things. People who come to the clinic for purely cosmetic reasons. Vanity even …’

‘I’m all for it,’ Lizzie said.

‘Really?’ Leo raised an eyebrow. ‘You don’t sound very sure.’

Lizzie was really struggling. Had she had a formal interview she would have given this question some thought prior to the event, but now it had been thrust upon her. There was no escaping Leo’s eyes as her mind raced for a more convincing response.

‘Why wouldn’t I be all for it?’ Lizzie said. ‘I’ve had a little work done myself.’

‘Really?’ Leo frowned. ‘What?’

Lizzie let out a slightly shrill laugh. ‘I don’t think you’d really expect me to answer that.’

Leo frowned. He could usually spot any work—it was his job after all—and Lizzie had to sit there burning with mortification as his eyes skimmed her face and then dipped briefly before returning to meet her gaze.

‘Can I ask who did your work?’

‘No,’ Lizzie said.

‘Well, whatever he did, it was an excellent job.’

‘She,’ Lizzie said.

‘Now you’ve got me really curious.’

Leo soon got back to being serious as he explained how the clinic ran. ‘I take great pride in my work. My patients often live their lives, or have lived their lives in the spotlight,’ he explained. ‘Like it or not, the world can be a very judgmental place and I do my best for my patients. I respect them immensely for taking care of themselves.’ Lizzie looked up at the determination in his voice. ‘Though I’m seeing fewer clients now as I focus more on the business side of things.’

‘Can I ask why?’ Lizzie was curious. ‘You’re clearly in demand …’

‘Two-fold.’ He nodded his approval of her question. ‘The more elusive I’ve become the more in demand I am and, on a more serious note, I really do want to build the charitable side of things. That’s the reason I’ve persuaded Ethan to come on board. The Hunter Clinic provides many people with very nice lifestyles but we do give back. It’s not just about donating a doctor’s time, though, it’s the hospital beds, the rehabilitation, the family …’

‘I can imagine.’

‘Fundraising is a serious part of my role. I’m very good at the social side of things.’

‘I had heard.’

‘Someone has to be,’ Leo said. ‘I can hardly send in Edward.’

Lizzie frowned.

‘Renowned micro surgeon, absolute genius, lives with his books,’ Leo said. ‘Then there’s Iain.’

‘MacKenzie? The Scottish one?’

Leo nodded. ‘Another brilliant surgeon but useless at small talk. And can you imagine Ethan drumming up business at an A-list function? He drips disdain.’

Lizzie felt guilty doing so but she did give a small laugh because, yes, Ethan wouldn’t be wonderful at schmoozing up to anyone.

‘For all he disapproves …’ Leo mused out loud, and then halted himself and turned the focus back to Lizzie. ‘Ethan said something about you supporting your parents …’

‘He shouldn’t have.’

‘He wasn’t gossiping,’ Leo said. ‘It must be quite a drain on you.’

‘I look out for my parents,’ Lizzie said tartly, embarrassed to be discussing this. ‘The same way that they have always looked out for me. Like you, there comes a time when it’s right to give back.’

‘Okay.’ He wrote on his pad and Lizzie frowned. ‘I was just reminding myself not to go there again.’ He turned her visible discomfort into a smile. ‘Right, I’d better get on. I do have a patient at two who will expect only the most senior staff.’ He opened up a folder and Lizzie saw that despite the effortless small talk this meeting really had been planned because it contained all her paperwork. ‘You’ve signed the confidentiality clause?’ Leo checked.

‘Yes.’

‘You fully understand what you signed?’

‘Of course.’

‘Good. I’ll see you just before two, then. The patient I’m seeing is Marianna Dupont. Have you heard of her?’

Lizzie swallowed. You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Marianna. Since her engagement to Prince Ferdinand of Sirmontane had been announced, their romance had filled the gossip columns. As first in line to the throne, his future wife would one day be queen and from the way Leo was talking, Lizzie was about to meet her.