‘Yes, but thankfully as we’ve grown older, they don’t treat me like I’m completely useless. Now we’re all good friends. How about you?’ Melody couldn’t stop herself from wanting to know more about him, about things that weren’t contained in the professional dossier she’d been sent months ago. ‘Any siblings?’

He nodded. ‘I have younger twin sisters who still love to stick their noses into my life.’

‘My brothers aren’t twins, there’s eighteen months between them, but as I’m four years younger, the two of them did a lot of things together and I always felt like left out.’

‘I’m like that with my sisters. They’ve always had each other.’

‘There you go, then. We’re both the odd ones out in our families.’ She picked up her glass and held it out to him. He quickly clinked his against hers, and they both sipped. Their gazes held again and she felt her smile begin to fade. That underlying tug of attraction was starting to wind its way around them and she desperately fought for something to say that would break the moment. ‘You haven’t touched your dessert. Don’t you have a sweet tooth?’

‘Not really. I used to before I started this tour but I’ve had so many working dinners and lunches—even breakfasts—that my sweet tooth has definitely disappeared.’

‘That’s a lot of food.’

‘Absolutely.’ He smiled. ‘But it gives me the opportunity to speak to more people, to get the word out about new advances, new techniques, and that’s one of the main aims of visiting professorships.’

‘Excuse me, Melody,’ Rick interrupted. ‘I’ve just had a call from Mr Okanadu’s office.’

‘Problem?’

‘One of his private patients is having complications.’

‘He’s gone to Theatre,’ Melody stated, and automatically checked her watch. Rick nodded.

‘Something wrong?’ Carmel asked, her radar ears picking up the conversation.

‘Mr Okanadu, the surgeon who was scheduled to assist George in Theatre this afternoon, has called through with an emergency.’

Carmel thought calmly for a moment, then indicated to Melody. ‘I’m sure you wouldn’t mind stepping into the breach, Melody.’

‘Me?’ Melody looked from George to Carmel to Rick, then back to Carmel. ‘Surely there’s someone—’

‘You’re a qualified orthopaedic surgeon,’ Carmel stated. ‘And I’m fairly sure, being the thorough professional that you are, you’ve already read the information packet sent to all host hospitals regarding the techniques George will be teaching.’

‘She has,’ Rick chimed in. ‘And she chose the patient. She was putting Mr Barnes’s mind at ease this morning before ward round, telling him he’ll have the best surgeon in the world performing the operation.’

‘Best surgeon, eh?’ George drawled, a glorious smile lighting his face, his brown eyes twinkling with delight.

The effect was mind-numbing and Melody wasn’t at all sure she’d be able to keep herself under control while standing opposite him in Theatre. At the moment, she was glad she was still sitting down as she wasn’t sure her legs would have continued supporting her. What was it about his smile that seemed to make her body melt and her mind go blank?

‘So it’s settled,’ Carmel stated, then rushed off to tell the rest of the team.

‘Where is she going?’ Melody asked.

‘To make the necessary changes. Every day, an extensive diary is kept about who operated on whom and where and when and everything else. The slides for the presentation will need to be changed, your name inserted instead of Dr Okanadu’s…’ He trailed off and shrugged. ‘That sort of thing.’

‘Would you mind quickly going over the procedure again with me? Just talk me through the highlights,’ she stated. Although she had read up on the procedure, now that she’d been forced into this, she wanted to do an excellent job.

Before George could answer, someone came over from another table and commandeered his attention, leaving Melody sitting there, trying her best to remember what she’d read.

‘You OK, boss?’ Rick asked, pulling up a chair beside her.

‘No.’

‘Oh? What’s the problem?’

‘I don’t want to assist.’

‘You’d rather be up in the gallery, squashed in all hot and bothered, telling people to shush so you could hear what was being said?’ He paused. ‘Now you get to be a part of the action, Melody. It’s an honour and a privilege and you’ll have the best view in the house.’

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