Sunday Snippet: One Night before Christmas by Susan Carlisle

Full disclosure…when I scheduled Susan for today I didn’t put it together that she was SUSAN CARLISLE one of my favorite HQN authors. I’m not even kidding when I tell I LOVE her books. So I’m super excited to be sharing a anippet from her latest book One Night…

onenightbeforechristmasUnwrapping Dr. Reynolds… 

Sports physician Dr. Melanie Hyde is used to being treated as one of the guys—but just sometimes it would be nice to be treated like a woman

So when hotshot orthopedic doctor Dalton Reynolds flies in to Niagara Falls, his brooding good looks ignite feelings Mel never even knew existed!

Dalton’s flight leaves in a few days, and yet after their short but steamy time together Mel knows that she’s already fallen for him. Can she melt Dalton’s heart and convince him to stay…just in time for Christmas? 


Dr. Melanie Hyde stood with the other chauffeurs waiting and watching passengers outside the security zone at the top of the escalators. Overhead the notes of ‘Jingle Bells’ were being piped via speakers throughout Niagara Falls International Airport in upstate New York. She wiggled the small white sign she held back and forth. Written on it was “Reynolds.”

She was there to pick up the ‘go-to’ orthopedic sports doctor. He’d been flown in on a private jet paid for by the Niagara Falls Currents, the professional football team and her employer. Her father, the General Manager, had sent her on this mission in the hope that she might, in his words, “soften the doctor up.”

Melanie had no idea how she was supposed to do that. She would have to find some way because she didn’t want to disappoint her father. Long ago she’d accepted what was expected of her. Not that she always liked it.

Maybe the one physician to another respect would make Dr. Reynolds see the team’s need to get Martin “The Rocket” Overtree on the field for the Sunday playoff game and hopefully the weeks after that.

As team physician, Melanie had given her professional opinion but her dad wanted a second one. That hurt, but she was a team player. Had been all her life. Just once she’d like her father to see her for who she really was, a smart woman who did her job well. An individual.

In the sports world that orthopedic second opinion came in the form of Dr. Dalton Reynolds of the Reynolds Sports and Orthopedic Center, Miami, Florida.

She’d never seen him in person but she had read plenty of his papers on the care of knee and leg injuries. ‘The Rocket’ had a knee issue but he wanted to play and Melanie was feeling the pressure from the team office to let him. More like her father’s not so gentle nudge.

Having grown up in a football loving world she knew the win, and in major league ball, the money, was everything. The burden to have ‘The Rocket’ on the field was heavy. On the cusp of a chance to go to the Super Bowl, the team’s star player was needed.

She shifted her heavy coat to the other arm and scanned the crowd of passengers streaming off the escalators for a male in his mid-fifties and wiggled the sign again.

A man of medium height, with close trimmed brown hair sporting a reddish tint, carrying a tan trench coat and a black bag blocked her view. He was do-a-double-take handsome but Melanie shifted her weight to one foot and looked around him, continuing to search the crowd.

“I’m Reynolds,” the man said in a deep husky voice that vibrated through her. The man could whisper sweet nothings in her ear all day long.

Jerking back to a full standing position, she locked gazes with his unwavering one.

“Dr. Dalton Reynolds?”


His eyes were the color of rich melted chocolate but they held none of the warmth. He wasn’t at all who she’d anticipated. Old and stuffy, instead of tall and handsome, was what she’d had in mind. This man couldn’t be more than few years older than she. He must be truly brilliant if he was the most eminent orthopedic surgeon in the country at his age.

“Uh, I wasn’t expecting you to be so ….young,” she blurted.

He gave her a sober look. “I’m sorry to disappoint.”

She blinked and cleared her throat. “I’m not disappointed, just surprised.”

“Good then. Shouldn’t we be getting my luggage? I’d like to see the patient this evening.”

With it being only a week before Christmas he must be in a hurry to return home to his family. After a moment’s hesitation she said, “I don’t know if that’ll be possible. The players may have gone home by the time we get back.”

“I didn’t come all this way to spend time in my hotel room. I have a practice in Miami to be concern with.” That statement was punctuated with a curl of one corner of his mouth.

He had a nice one. Why was she thinking about his mouth when she should be talking to him about Rocket? The off center feeling she had around this stranger unnerved her. She worked in primarily a men’s world all the time and never had this type of reaction to one of them.

They started walking toward the baggage area. As they did Melanie put the sign she was still carrying in a garbage can then pulled her phone out of her pocket. “I’ll try and get Coach. Have him ask Rocket to hang around. But football players sometimes have minds of their own.”

“I can appreciate that Ms…”

Melanie stopped and looked at him. He faced her, his broad shoulders blocking her view of the other people passing them.

She raised her chin. “I’m Doctor Melanie Hyde.”

A flash of wonder flickered in his eyes.

Good. She’d managed to surprise him.

“Dr. Hyde, if Mr. Overtree expects my help he’ll need to be examined as soon as possible. I have patients at home who are trying to stay out of wheelchairs.”

With that he turned and walked toward the revolving luggage rack.

Melanie gaped at him. So much for “smoothing him over.”

Dalton had little patience for silly games. Even when they were played with attractive woman. He been astonished to find out that the team doctor was female and the person who had been sent to pick him up. Usually that job fell to a hired driver or one of the team underlings. He had to admit she was the prettiest chauffeur he’d ever had.

As far as he was concerned he was here to do a job and nothing more. He wasn’t impressed by the game of football. The only aspect that drew him in was that he cared about helping people who were hurting. He’d been called in to examine an injured player at great expense. The money he earned, good money, from making these types of ‘house calls’ was what he used to support his foundation. It oversaw struggling foster children with physical and mental issues, giving them extra care so they had a chance to succeed in life. He would continue to do so as long as the teams paid him top dollar. However, he didn’t buy into all the football hype.

He knew from experience that not everyone was cut out for games. He’d left that far behind being constantly teased for being the ‘brain with no game’. It had taken time and work on his part but he’d overcome his childhood. Now he was successful in his field, had friends and a good life. He had proven anyone could overcome his past. That’s why he’d started the foundation. To give other kids a step in the right direction so they didn’t struggle as he had.

The tall, athletic looking doctor came to stand beside him. She almost met him eye to eye. He liked woman with long legs. Glancing down while watching the baggage conveyer as it circled in front of him, he confirmed the length of her legs. She wore a brown suit with a cream colored blouse. There was nothing bold about her dress to make her stand out. Still something about her pricked his interest. Her features were fine and her skin like porcelain, a complete contrast to her all business appearance. Not of his usual fare, of bleach blond and heavy breasted,

she looked more of the wholesome-girl-next-door variety. Under all that sweetness was there any fire?

He looked at the bags orbiting before him. Football was still such a man’s world so why would a woman choose to become a football team doctor?

His black leather duffle circled to him. He leaned over and picked it up. Slinging it over his shoulder, he turned to her. “I’m ready.”

“This way then.” She pulled on the large down-stuffed coat she’d held. As she walked, she wrapped a knit scarf effortlessly around her neck and pulled a cap over her hair. He followed her. There was a nice sway to her hips. Even in the shapeless outfit she had a natural sex appeal. He shouldn’t be having that sort of thoughts because he wouldn’t be here long enough to act on them.

The automatic, glass doors opened allowing in a blast of freezing cold air that took his breath and made his teeth rattle. “Hold up.” He stepped back inside.

She followed. He didn’t miss the slight twitch at the corner of her full lips. She was laughing at him. He didn’t like being laughed at.

He plopped his bag on the floor and set his shoulder bag beside it before putting on his trench coat.

“Is that the heaviest overcoat you have?” she asked.

Tying the belt at the waist, he looked directly at her. “Yes. There isn’t much call for substantial clothes in Miami.”

“I guess there isn’t. Would you like to stop and get a warmer one on our way to the practice field?”

He shook his head as he picked up his bags again. “I don’t plan to be here that long.”

Again they headed out the door. Dalton tried to act as if the wind wasn’t cutting right through his less than adequate clothes. Even with a shirt, sweater and coat he was miserable.

“Why don’t you wait here and I’ll circle around to get you?”

“No I’m fine. Let’s get moving.” He bowed his head against the spit of icy rain.

Dalton had spent a lifetime of not appearing weak and he wouldn’t change now. As the smart foster kid, he hadn’t fit in at school or in the houses he’d been placed in. With a father in jail and a drug addict for a mother, he’d been in and out of homes for years. It wasn’t until he was ten and his mother died of an overdose that he’d stayed in one place for any length of time. At the Richies’ life had been only marginally better before he was sent to another home.

He’d had plenty of food and clothes, but little about his life had been easy. When all the other kids were out playing he was busy reading, escaping. The most miserable times were when he did join in a game. He was the last one chosen for the team. If finally picked, he then had to deal with the ridicule of being the worst player. He learned quickly not to show any weakness. As a medical student and now a surgeon, the honed trait served him well.

Football, freezing weather and a laughing woman, no matter how attractive she was, were not to his taste. He needed to do this consultation and get back to Florida.


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