Matters of the Heartis a lesbian medical romance where a doctor and patient find love together. I don’t know how Catherine Maoirisi did it. I hated Darcy at the beginning and didn’t think anything could redeem her—so much so that I considered putting this book down. I’m glad I didn’t, however, because Darcy has one HECK of an arc, and is a totally different person at the end, through the love and patience of Andrea and some of their friends. I recommend Matters of the Heart to anyone who’s looking for a solid, traditional romance.Rainbow Book Reviews
I’m a sucker for a slow-burning romance, and this one nicely hit that spot. As is made clear in the introduction, it’s Maiorisi’s first attempt at a full-length romance–previously she has been known for murder mysteries. If she wants to continue in this genre, she’s off to a great start.
Dr. Andrea Trapani had plunged into disease-infested jungles filled with armed hostiles with less trepidation than she felt now about to enter the home of the cantankerous Ms. Darcy Silver. As she eyed the elegant mansion and its half-block walled garden, she wondered again why she’d thought this was a good idea.
But a commitment is a commitment. She squared her shoulders, picked up her suitcase and medical bag and passed through the wrought-iron gate. At the top of the curved stone staircase, she lifted the bronze eagle and knocked on the carved wooden door. Waited. Knocked again. About to knock a third time, she noticed the door was slightly ajar and stepped in, nearly tripping on a haphazard pile of suitcases and shopping bags just inside the huge foyer. Her nose twitched. The lovely fragrance of the colorful bouquet of fresh flowers on a small oak library table deeper inside the foyer was not at all what she expected. Could she be in the wrong house? She dug in the pocket of her jeans, retrieved the paper Julie Castillo had given her, and confirmed she was in the right place. According to Julie, they were expecting her. But where was everybody? Surely a house this big had servants.
Andrea placed her suitcase behind the library table to avoid it being taken by mistake, then peered into the large, sunny living room on the east side of the foyer. It was warm and comfortable-looking, rather than dusty, musty and forbidding as she’d imagined the house of the miserable Ms. Silver. In the formal dining room across the foyer, a magnificent chandelier glittered over a long rosewood table with, she counted, seating for thirty. She grinned, imagining the bitchy Ms. Silver sitting at the table scowling at her cowering minions, like in a Dickens novel.
As she moved back into the foyer, she became aware of voices from above. She grabbed her medical bag and followed the voices up four flights of steps and down the hall until she reached the door to a room where a woman in a hospital bed was engaged in a vicious shouting match with an angry blonde standing over her. Neither noticed Andrea just outside the bedroom. Feeling uncomfortable about interrupting, she waited for a lull.
“My bags are packed. I’m leaving, Darcy.” The blonde leaned over the woman in the bed. “I didn’t sign on for feeding you or washing you, and certainly not for giving you bedpans and serving on you twenty-four hours a day, but I tried. I can’t do it. I can’t tolerate your foul temper. I can’t deal with your belittling me while I’m trying to help you. Most of all, I can’t watch your self-destructive behavior. In the week or so you’ve been home from the hospital the aides you haven’t fired have walked out because of your foul mouth and foul temper. Even the visiting nurse has refused to come back. That has to be some kind of world record.” The blonde turned from the bed and began to pace, giving Andrea a glimpse of the red-faced, dark-haired Darcy Silver.
“What kind of woman walks out on a lover who can’t do anything for herself?” Darcy Silver whined. “It’s a terrible thing to be in pain. It’s even worse to be in pain and helpless. But it’s devastating to be in pain and helpless and abandoned by friends, by everyone you thought cared. You say you love me, Gerri, but if you did, you would stay and take care of me.”
Gerri laughed. “Love you? How can I love you, Darcy? You live behind a glass wall and you’ve never once let me through. The sex was great but it was always all about you, you giving, you touching, you in control. You never let me touch you physically or emotionally. It’s almost as if anyone who cares for you, who loves you, is worthless.”
“You are worthless. Get your stuff and get out. I don’t need you or anyone else.”
“That’s good since none of your precious” —Gerri made quote marks with her fingers— “‘inner circle’ of friends have shown up to see you, forget lift a finger to help.”
“Get the hell out.”
“You can’t do a goddamn thing for yourself.” Gerri glared at her. “I should leave you alone to starve to death or drown in your own piss and shit. That’s what you’d do to me. But I’m a better person than you, so I’ve arranged for a live-in doctor to oversee your care and a nurse for the night shift. The doctor should be here shortly.”
“Are you crazy? A live-in doctor? And a nurse? Did you discuss it with Candace?”
“I would have if she’d answered my urgent calls about you.”
“Another ungrateful bitch. I refuse to have strangers.”
“Too bad, baby doll. Even the exalted Darcy Silver doesn’t always get what she wants. Anyway, I’m out of here as soon as the doctor shows up. Maybe she can sign you into some fancy institution where your money will buy tolerance for your nastiness.”
“I’m not going to a nursing home.”
“Up to you, darling. The agency I’ve been dealing with refuses to send anyone else so the nurse is from a new agency. I paid for the first twelve-hour shift out of the money you put in my account but the agency owner will be here tomorrow morning to get your oral approval since you can’t sign. The doctor is not from an agency.” Gerri leaned over the bed again. “You know, Darcy, it would be nice if you said ‘Thank you, Gerri, for all you’ve done and for not leaving me to rot by myself.’”
“Go fuck yourself.”
“Ah, there’s the Darcy I know and love.”
Her veins were popping, her face was almost purple and she was breathing so heavily Andrea feared she’d stroke. As unpleasant as stepping into the middle of the screaming match would be, she needed to protect her soon-to-be patient. She knocked and entered. Her first full-faced look at Darcy Silver surprised her. Not only was Darcy much younger than she’d expected but even red-faced with rage, not a speck of makeup, and with her long dark hair splayed in clumps over a rust-stained pillow, the prominent cheekbones, the sensuous lips and the sparking sapphire eyes added up to striking.
At the knock, Darcy’s eyes shot from Gerri to Andrea. She glared, eyes narrow, lips curled in a snarl. “Who the fuck are you? And why are you sneaking up on me?”
Andrea wasn’t sure whether it was the foul language, or the vilest tone of voice anyone had ever hurled at her, but she froze, pinned by those blazing blue eyes. “Dr. Andrea Trapani. I was sent—”
“Get out. I don’t need a doctor to wipe my ass.”
“Good luck, Doctor.” Gerri looked apologetic.
Darcy’s head swiveled to Gerri. “Why are you still here?”
“Ta-ta, Darcy.” Gerri breezed past Andrea, leaving a trail of flowery perfume in her wake. “Have a good life,” she tossed over her shoulder.
They listened to her run down the steps, footsteps getting fainter with each flight of stairs until the only sound was Darcy’s labored breathing. Andrea and Darcy regarded each other in awkward silence, then both jumped when the slamming of the front door echoed through the silent mansion. Gerri had left with a bang. “Well, Ms. Silver, do you want me to go?”
Insolent sapphire eyes raked her from head to toe with such intensity that Andrea felt she was being undressed and touched. Areas of her body that had been dormant for months quivered and, much to her chagrin, the flush infusing her body reached her face. It wasn’t the first time she’d been scrutinized like that, but it was the first time a woman had done it, and the first time her body had responded.
“Do I look like I have a fucking choice?”
Darcy couldn’t see her racing heart or the throbbing of her…body and she hoped the nastiness in the question meant that Darcy hadn’t noticed her red face. She breathed deeply. Her best friend Julie Castillo, Darcy’s cardiologist, had encouraged Andrea to take this job to get her mind off Nora and ease back into medicine. Though Julie had warned Andrea that Darcy was very, very difficult, she hadn’t mentioned Darcy’s age or beauty or her unpleasant, aggressive sexuality.
“I’ll leave after you’ve made arrangements for twenty-four-seven coverage tomorrow, if that’s what you want. But you need to calm down now and try to relax.”
“I don’t need you to tell me what I need to do. What you need to do is stop standing there like an idiot. If you’re here to take care of me, how about you do your job and take care of me.”
“I’d like to take your blood pressure, then settle in. Is there something you want now?”
“I’m thirsty. There should be cold water in the refrigerator behind me. And don’t settle in too much, you may not be here tomorrow. I don’t need another doctor. And I certainly don’t need to pay a doctor to wash and feed me.”
Andrea bit her tongue. Apparently, judging from the odor of sweat and urine, and the stained pillowcase, washing Darcy hadn’t been a priority for her aides. And, apparently no one had told Darcy she definitely needed a doctor; then again, she probably hadn’t listened. As she filled a glass with water from the pitcher in the refrigerator, she cursed herself for not wearing scrubs and a lab coat. Her scooped-neck top was going to give Darcy skin and cleavage to ogle.
She lifted Darcy’s head and placed the straw between her lips. Darcy’s perfect black eyebrows arched as her eyes widened but she didn’t comment. When she finished, Andrea removed the straw. Darcy’s sly smile telegraphed her enjoyment of her close-up of Andrea’s breasts. Avoiding those impertinent eyes, she gently placed Darcy’s head on the pillow and patted her lips dry. “I’m going to take your blood pressure now. I’m worried by the look of you.”
“How sweet. Here five minutes and you’re already worried about me.”
Andrea ignored her. Darcy’s eyes followed her as she retrieved the stethoscope and blood pressure cuff from her medical bag. She moved the light blanket aside to expose Darcy’s right arm and was surprised to find Darcy naked, no hospital gown, no diaper. Her right arm was propped up by pillows, had a shoulder-to-wrist cast and was bent at the elbow in a V shape, awkward at best and not available for pressure. She covered the right arm and moved the blanket from the left arm. Its cast ran from just above her elbow to her wrist, with a couple of broken fingers as well, but the upper left arm was available for the blood pressure cuff.
“Neat huh? Just enough arm available for you to play doctor.” Her voice was taunting and her eyes bounced from Andrea’s face to her breasts and back. “I always loved that game.”
God, what an offensive pig. Andrea had dealt with her share of pigs in the emergency room but they were always men. Andrea pumped then concentrated on listening. Just as she’d feared, Darcy’s pressure was in the danger zone. She’d let her relax for a while and take it again. If it didn’t come down, she’d call Julie and have Darcy hospitalized. She undid the cuff.
“Not good? How high?” For the first time, Darcy spoke without sarcasm, anger, or nastiness.
Andrea met the inquisitive blue eyes. “Not good at all. Two-hundred-one over one-hundred-ten. We need to watch this, Ms. Silver, it’s dangerously high.”
“We do, huh?” The ridicule in her voice was blistering. “Okay, no jogging for me today.”
“Jogging might be better than letting your anger get the best of you. Try to control that so we can get your pressure down and avoid a visit to the emergency room.”
“No fucking way am I going back to the hospital, understand?” The anger and the red face were back.
Andrea touched her shoulder. “I understand, Ms. Silver—”
“Hey, sweetie, you’re going to be wiping my ass so I think we can be on first name terms. Call me Darcy.” She smirked. “Please.”
“I understand, Darcy, but do you understand? You need to control your anger. If you don’t, you could have a stroke or another heart attack. Either could leave you in much worse condition than you’re in now.” Green eyes held blue. “Do you hear me? You could die or be paralyzed or lose your ability to see, or hear, or speak or all of the above.”
The blue eyes skittered over Andrea’s shoulder. “I hear you.” She sounded exhausted.
“Good. Did anyone give you your medication this morning?”
“I don’t remember. I don’t think so.”
Andrea found the chart on the table behind Darcy’s bed. She posted the blood pressure reading and her observation of Darcy’s state, then scanned the previous entries. According to the chart, Darcy hadn’t been given any medication since eight p.m. last night. As she closed the chart she noticed Gerri’s contact number written on the cover and tapped it into her cell phone. “Hi, this is Dr. Trapani. Do you know if Darcy was given her medication this morning?” She listened, pocketed her phone, then made a note in the chart.
“So what did the bitch say?”
Darcy was calling the woman who went out of her way to arrange proper care for her a bitch. Who’s the real bitch here? “Apparently, you threw the aide out at one a.m. this morning so Gerri sat with you all night, but didn’t know what medication to give you.” Andrea checked the chart again and gathered the pills. “These are your morning meds. I’ll put them in your mouth one at a time followed by the straw so you can wash them down. Okay?”
“Nice of you to ask. Usually, they toss them in and walk away.” Darcy opened her mouth.
When they’d finished, Andrea patted Darcy’s lips dry. “Now, which bedroom can I use?”
Darcy’s head popped up. “Why do you need a bedroom?”
“I was hired as a live-in so I can be available twenty-four-seven.”
Darcy’s eyes widened, her face reddened. “Who the—”
Andrea put both hands on Darcy’s shoulders and stared into her eyes. “Take a deep breath, Darcy. I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, remember?”
Darcy held her eyes for a few seconds. “Any room on the second floor.”
“No. I need to be near you.” She could see a bedroom through the open door opposite Darcy’s bed. “I’ll take the bedroom next door.”
“That’s my bedroom.” The eyes were shooting fire now. “If you’re going to do whatever you want, why bother asking?”
Andrea pulled a chair close to the bed and sat so she and Darcy were on the same level. “Listen, Darcy, I know you’re feeling helpless and out of control—”
“You don’t know a goddamned thing about what I’m feeling.”
“I’m here to take care of your physical well-being and to monitor your health. So I’ll make the decisions I think are needed to best do those two things. I want to be close to you, even when I’m not technically on duty, therefore, I will sleep in the room next to yours.” Andrea maintained eye contact. Her voice was gentle and firm, not confrontational. “Do you understand?”
Darcy glared at her. “Why should you care when you’re off duty and not getting paid?”
Andrea held her eyes. “I’m a doctor. Your health is precarious and it doesn’t get better just because I’m asleep.”
Darcy blinked, then looked away. “Sorry.”
Having won the first battle, Andrea stood. “I’ll get my things from downstairs—”
Andrea frowned. “No?” This woman was the personification of the term rich bitch. If every little thing was going to require a battle, she would be happy to leave tomorrow morning.
“Use the intercom on the table there to call down to the kitchen. Ask Maria to have Gregg bring your things up.”
“You have servants?”
“Not exactly. They’re here between eight and six Monday through Friday. Gregg comes in early to make breakfast and to prep for the day’s meals. Maria and Carlo come in a little later. Maria cooks, with Gregg assisting, and she oversees the people that come in to do the laundry and clean. Carlo serves and oversees the care of the grounds. Gregg does all the shopping and any heavy stuff needed. Maria will bring up my breakfast soon and she’ll discuss the week’s meals with us. If you need breakfast or coffee, let her know when you call down.”
Us. Andrea turned toward the intercom to hide her smile. The awful woman was accepting her. Andrea did not like her at all. Her first instinct had been to tell her to shove her job, but there was no way she would leave her alone. Darcy was a control freak, no doubt about that. An out of control, control freak microseconds away from a stroke or a heart attack. Andrea had seen the violent temper and the uncontrollable rage frequently in the emergency room, and unless it was triggered by drinking or drugs, its cause was almost always fear.
She resolved to not let Darcy’s needling and attacks rile her, to be patient, and to give her full attention to Darcy so she felt seen and cared for. Julie was so right about her being a challenge medically and temperamentally. The bigger challenge, though, might be dealing with Darcy’s blatant sexuality and her own body’s response to it.
She really was out of control. In the good doctor’s place, she’d tell her where to go. Besides being nasty and abusive, she’d practically raped the poor woman with her eyes. She regretted it, but Gerri’s leaving had panicked her and these days her eyes and her tongue were the only weapons she could wield when she felt threatened.
But while it was true she felt threatened, it was also true she’d found the doctor irresistible. A little taller than her own five-foot-nine, with a long lean body, full breasts, collar-length honey-red hair, gorgeous green eyes, ivory skin and sensuous lips, she was lovely. And she smelled sexy—a touch of sweat, a little citrus, some musk, some rosemary and tinges of woodsy.
A lot of good lusting and wanting would do her now stuck in this bed, helpless and in pain. Yet, she might not be as helpless as she felt. While the lovely doctor didn’t seem distressed by her foul mouth and unbridled aggression, her flush indicated she’d responded to the sexual appreciation. Of course, it’s possible she felt assaulted rather than flattered and it might have been an angry flush. But wouldn’t it be nice if she were a lesbian?
But lust and sex aside, the doctor seemed to be kind, compassionate and caring. It might be nice to have Doctor Trapani taking care of her. A welcome relief from the brusque, all-business, slam-bam-don’t-bother-me-ma’am treatment she’d been receiving so far from aides.
And what the doctor had said about having a heart attack or a stroke was scary. A massive heart attack had killed her dad without warning. She was unhappy and filled with anger and self-pity now but she didn’t want to die or worse, lose her ability to speak or walk or any of the things Dr. Trapani had warned could result from her raging temper.
When had she become so angry? She didn’t think of herself that way, but maybe she was remembering the younger, happier Darcy, the one who was in love and had a bright future where anything was possible. If she was honest, her life was a disappointment. The challenging, interesting, meaningful work to which she’d aspired had eluded her as had a lasting, loving relationship. Her failures embarrassed her and she hid the bitterness she felt behind an affable, fun-loving façade.
Since the accident, since none of her friends except Candace had even visited, forget offered to help, her rage had burned away the discipline and restraint that hid the real her. And where did this foul language come from? Of course she knew the words, had used them occasionally, but this savaging stream of hate and coarse curses surprised even her. It seemed when her rage exploded it flowed out of her like lava from a volcano.
She’d expected more from her friends, much more. And being abandoned by the inner circle she thought of as her family, being left in the care of a woman she’d been about to break up with when the accident occurred, had driven her to the edge. The beast had broken free. If her friends didn’t care, why should paid nurses and aides give a damn about Darcy Silver, especially when she treated them like shit? Or doctors? If she wanted this lovely doctor to stay, she’d have to collar the beast.
She was hurt and lonely and scared, so she dumped all her anger and frustration on anyone who dared come close. She couldn’t blame Gerri for leaving. It was surprising she’d lasted as long as she had. She hoped she hadn’t become such a terrible person that if their roles were reversed she wouldn’t have left without hiring someone to take care of Gerri. Enough self-pity. Despite being friendless, despite being a failure, Darcy wanted to live. She was disciplined. She could control herself. Her life depended on it.
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