Surgeon in a Tux(8)

By: Carol Marinelli


‘Lizzie …’ Ethan liked Lizzie and decided to get straight to the point. ‘He’s a bastard. Leo—’

‘Ethan,’ Lizzie broke in, ‘I don’t need a big brother looking out for me.’

‘Neither do I,’ Ethan said, and gave a wry smile. ‘I’ve told him the same thing many times.’ Yet she was right. He thought of Lizzie more like a brother would and he didn’t want her to get hurt. Ethan knew the damage Leo so easily wreaked and he could not stand that for Lizzie so he pressed on when, with anyone else, he wouldn’t have. ‘I’ve never known Leo serious about anyone …’ Ethan hesitated and then corrected his lie by omission. ‘Actually, there was one …’ Lizzie glanced up at the tentative note to his voice ‘… but they were never serious.’ God, Ethan hated talking about personal things and he certainly wasn’t going to tell Lizzie about Olivia. ‘All you need to know is that Leo—’

‘I get the message.’

‘Good,’ Ethan said. ‘So long as you do.’

They both fell silent as they heard a car pull up and a few moments later Leo stepped in.

His hair was damp and he smelt as fresh as if he’d just that second stepped from the shower and sprayed cologne on himself.

‘Bitching about me?’ he said, for his entrance.

‘It’s so very easy to do,’ Ethan responded.

‘Don’t believe a word,’ Leo quipped to Lizzie, but he was unusually rattled, a smidge jealous at the sight of Ethan and Lizzie gossiping over coffee, and not for the first time he wondered about the nature of their relationship.

‘I’ll get you a coffee.’ Lizzie headed off and Leo took off his heavy coat and hung it up.

‘Here again?’ he said to Ethan.

‘I had a conference call,’ Ethan said. ‘So you’ve got Marianna coming in for major surgery this morning?’

‘I do.’ Leo refused to be drawn; he knew how little Ethan thought of his work and that his skills could be far better utilised. Leo certainly wasn’t about to justify himself, especially not at this hour!

‘Have a look at this,’ Leo said, as Lizzie returned with coffee. ‘Hot off the press.’

‘Oh, my goodness!’ Lizzie smiled. There was a picture of Marianna wearing her eye patch and a white arrow pointing to the streak of fluorescein running down her cheek. There was an extraordinarily long piece about corneal scratches and how she would have to keep her eye covered and wear dark glasses. The Sirmontane royal spokesperson neither confirmed nor denied the reports that Marianna had been scratched by the puppy Prince Ferdinand had bought her.

‘There’s even a photo of her puppy!’

She couldn’t help but laugh but a less than impressed Ethan limped off. He could hear them laughing and chatting through the empty clinic, hear their easy conversation as Lizzie set up for the surgery, and he wondered if he’d been clear enough in his warning.

No, he wasn’t overreacting and it wasn’t far too soon, he’d seen the way Leo had first responded to her.

They’d known each other close to twenty-four hours now.

For Leo, that could be considered contained!

Gwen arrived early too and then, a short while later, Marianna arrived via the basement, with her security, and very soon the procedure would be under way.

Marianna really was delightful.

‘Well done!’ she said to Leo as he marked her eyes with his purple pen for the procedure. ‘I read the article on the way here.’

‘Good, isn’t it?’ Leo smiled. ‘By the time most people are waking up to read it, you’ll already be done. I’ll let you know how many journalists we have calling to make an appointment with the ophthalmologist.’

‘Do you have one here?’ Lizzie asked, and Leo nodded.

‘He comes in twice a week. It works out great for this type of thing. They’ll all be ringing to make appointments, just trying to catch us out. They won’t, though.’

Leo really did have everything worked out, Lizzie was fast realising.

He was very good with Marianna. She lay down and he chatted with her easily as he put in an IV. Incredibly stoic, she asked for only minimum sedation.

‘You’re sure?’ Leo checked. ‘You can sleep through it.’

‘I’d really rather not.’

‘That’s fine,’ Leo said. ‘I’ll give you lots of local and just enough sedation to make sure you’re relaxed. You can always change your mind.’

‘Thank you,’ Marianna said, but Lizzie guessed she wouldn’t be changing her mind. Marianna was a woman who clearly liked to be in control at all times.

Leo and Lizzie set up for the procedure, chatting to Marianna as they did so.

‘How are you enjoying your work?’ Marianna asked.

‘Very much,’ Lizzie said, keeping a careful eye on their patient as Leo administered the sedation.

‘How are you feeling?’ Leo checked.

‘Good.’

‘Okay. I’m just going to put in the local anaesthetic around your eyes.’

‘The things we have to go through …’ Marianna said, as Lizzie wiped a few tears away and they waited for the anaesthetic to take effect. ‘I am hoping once the wedding is over the press will get tired of me.’

Leo’s eyebrows rose above his mask and Marianna smiled. ‘Yes, I know they will go crazy again when we have children but, like you, I have my secret weapons.’

‘Do tell.’ Leo grinned.

‘Marco.’

Leo laughed and glanced over at Lizzie. ‘That’s Prince Ferdinand’s younger brother. He’s a bit of a wild card—I can see he could help take the spotlight off the two of you.’

‘Ferdinand is much quieter.’ Marianna yawned, the sedation making her feel a little drowsy. ‘Marco is the one who makes the headlines.’

‘I haven’t heard much about him lately,’ Leo mused, checking around Marianna’s eyes to be sure they were numb before starting. ‘What’s he up to these days?’

Marianna didn’t answer. Lizzie wondered if she’d dozed off but, no, she was still awake, telling Leo that she couldn’t feel anything as he dabbed at the area with a needle.

‘We’ll start then,’ Leo said. He had worked with celebrities and royalty long enough to know when a question was deliberately ignored—whatever Prince Marco was up to, Marianna did not want it discussed.

‘Okay, keep your eyes closed, Marianna, unless I tell you otherwise.’

Lizzie had never seen such steady hands as Leo’s. He was incredibly precise.

Leo too was enjoying working with Lizzie. The mood in the room was relaxed and he knew Marianna was being well taken care of as he focused on her eyes, removing the smallest sliver of her upper lids. Even as he tied off one long suture, Lizzie could see the difference.

‘Less is more,’ Leo explained to Lizzie as he worked. ‘In this case we’re not trying to change anything, just enhance.’

‘Will there be any more procedures?’ Lizzie asked now that Marianna was dozing quietly as Leo worked.

Leo shook his head. ‘I’ve already zapped a few capillaries and I’m sure Marianna won’t mind me telling you she had some work done with the most impressive ceramist. I might have to pay him a visit.’

Lizzie smiled behind her mask, Leo needed no work done on his teeth, which were white and very even, but not so falsely perfect that she really couldn’t be sure if he’d had work done.

‘Have you ever thought of having anything done, Lizzie?’ Marianna asked groggily.

‘I have.’ Lizzie refused to look at Leo.

‘Have you had anything done yourself?’

It was Lizzie who chose not to answer this time.

‘That’s what I’m trying to work out,’ Leo answered for her.

It was all good-natured teasing, just the sort of idle chatter that took place during a straightforward procedure, and in less than an hour Marianna was sitting up, a little woozy but looking into the mirror as Leo outlined what he had done.

‘You will get a little bruising and swelling but not too much, I think.’

‘Will I be able to cover it with make-up?’

‘No make-up yet,’ Leo warned. ‘It’s going to look worse before it looks better. We’ll keep you here for today …’ He wrote his operation notes and gave Lizzie his instructions. ‘Lots of iced eye masks and if Marianna can rest in a recliner, that would be great. I’d like her head up.’

‘Sure.’

Lizzie watched as he wrote on a small card. She assumed it was the instructions but he clipped it to the operation notes.

‘Okay, call someone to help you take Marianna to the recovery area.’

It was nothing like anywhere Lizzie had worked.

She didn’t even have to push the wheelchair.

Charlotte was waiting in the sumptuous recovery room, which was more like a day spa than anything Lizzie was used to. She welcomed Marianna and they helped her into a chair and checked her obs and then, as Marianna slept, Charlotte showed Lizzie a few things—such as letting the chef know that they had a patient back from Theatre after twilight sedation.

‘Iced water.’ Charlotte read Marianna’s choices to the chef and Lizzie hid her amazement—you even ordered water here! ‘Could you send some chamomile tea in half an hour and I’ll let you know when she’s ready for breakfast. Poached eggs and salmon and brown bread, no crusts, no butter.’