His Forbidden Love

Manhattan Billionaires, Book 2

She’s off-limits. She’s also my obsession…

I can’t get Ally out of my head.

She was there four years ago, back when I was chief resident and she was my intern.

Back when I was married to someone else.

Somehow, I managed to resist this forbidden temptation.

But things change.

I’ve made my fortune. 

I’m building a cutting-edge surgery practice and I need brilliant doctors like her.

Most importantly, I’m now divorced.

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

My head is still full of Ally. 

Of the way she looks at me when she thinks I don’t notice.

Of her new boyfriend and how unworthy he is.

Of how his presence means she’s still forbidden.

Unless I’m in her head, too…

Don't miss the second sexy standalone in the Manhattan Billionaires series!

Order Ebook

Amazon Kindle
Nook
Kobo

Order Print

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
IndieBound
Book Depository

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1—Michael

“This is bullshit.”

I reluctantly turn my attention away from my ongoing perusal of the women in this black-tie crowd—still no sign of her, to my intense displeasure—and frown.

“Come again?”

“This. Is. Bullshit.” Jake Quinn, one of my longtime best pals from freshman year at NYU umpteen years ago, scowls. “Remind me. Why am I here?”

This idiot.

“I told you,” I say, not bothering to hide my impatience. “We’re celebrating the retirement of one of my mentors. Dr. Smith. We’re enjoying his lovely dinner cruise along the scenic Hudson River.” I lean a hip against the railing and gesture at Lady Liberty with my drink hand (scotch and soda) and then downtown Manhattan with my free hand. It’s a balmy June night, not too humid, and my hopes are high despite my best efforts to keep them in check. Nothing else conveys glamour, excitement and limitless possibilities like the glittering skyline stretching in front of us. With the jazzy music, strong drinks and tasty hors d’oeuvres, this little shindig has the makings of a decent event. Good things happen on nights like this. Hopefully tonight will be no exception. “Don’t you want to wish a fellow doc well in the next chapter of his life?”

“Not particularly. I don’t even know the guy. You’re the plastic surgeon here. Not me.”

“I need moral support, and you were the only one available. Which means that you’re my plus-one,” I say. “Congratulations.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not fucking you at the end of the night. Just so you know.”

I choke back a laugh. “Noted.”

“Where the hell is Liam tonight?” he continues sourly. “Why didn’t he get the honor?”

“Holed up at home with my sister, I’m assuming. Living his best life.”

The third member of our college crew, Liam Wilder, recently reconciled with my twin sister Mia, who also attended NYU. The two of them had a nasty breakup after graduation but now seem to be on their way to a happy ending after all those years apart. Thank God. I’m close to both and maintaining my neutrality this whole time has not been easy.

“Lucky bastard. I should be home, too,” Jake says, checking his watch for the umpteenth time. “I’m not sure the sitter can handle my kids.”

I somehow manage not to roll my eyes. Life has been tough for Jake ever since his wife died a couple of years ago, leaving him with two small children. I get that. What I don’t get? His persistent refusal to make things easier on himself and get full-time help.

“I keep telling you, for the love of God and the sake of my sanity, hire a nanny. You need one now more than ever.”

Jake, Liam and I are all physicians. In addition to our full-time practices, we recently sold a medical device that Liam invented (Jake and I were initial investors) for a shit-ton of money. If you’ve come up with a number, throw a few more zeros behind it and you’ll start to get the picture. We’re all suddenly rich beyond our wildest dreams, which means we’ve got a lot more money for luxury living. None of us has plans to head to Barbados and bask in the sun for the rest of our lives, though. We all enjoy what we do and work insane hours. Hence Jake’s need for a nanny.

Jake grimaces, sips his drink and does his best to avoid my gaze.

“This isn’t about me,” he says. “Why do you need moral support? You’re a grown man.”

I hesitate because he’s right. It sounds way too overblown to tell him the truth, which is that I’m still inexplicably fixated on a resident I trained four years ago—and who’s hopefully somewhere in the crowd tonight. 

But the thing is, I’m divorced now, and…

And nothing. I don’t know what I’m thinking, exactly. Can’t even roll it into a ball of an idea to toss around. The time isn’t right for me to be engaging in, I don’t know, stuff. The ink is barely dry on my divorce. Said divorce was my fault because I proposed to my ex-wife despite my whispering doubts (we met at the gym and, while smart and beautiful, Patricia possesses all the warmth of Saturn’s outer rings and always resented my commitment to my career) and then took five years to reverse the mistake. I went so far as to follow her to L.A. when she got a killer tech job, and only came back to NYC recently. So the wreckage of my personal life is still scorched, smoldering and throwing off occasional sparks. Plus, I’m in the middle of counting my new money and launching my new plastic surgery practice group back at my original hospital. I don’t have the time or inclination for anything other than the occasional hookups everyone needs to take the edge off his or her basic needs.

The bottom line?

There’s no logical reason why this woman is still on my mind. No explanation I can produce.

But she is.

Maybe that’s why I’m here. To see her again and prove to myself that she’s not the mythical and irresistible creature I’ve made her out to be in my mind. She can’t be. I’ve blown her up in my mind. You know the phenomenon. It’s like when you have a great dinner at a restaurant and can’t wait to go back to enjoy it again, only to discover, say, that it was saltier than you remember or that the restaurant has changed hands and the new chef doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing with a frying pan.

Disappointment is inevitable. But I need to know.

“There’s this, ah, woman,” I say, uncomfortably aware of Jake’s sharpening interest. I hastily down the rest of my drink, mostly to give myself something to do.

“And…?”

I try to look politely puzzled by the question. “I think she’ll be here.”

Correction: I know she’ll be here because a) she also worked closely with Dr. Retirement during her intern year; and b) I scoped out her nametag on the reception table when we checked in for tonight’s cruise.

Dr. Ally Harlow.

I may as well confess that my surveillance efforts went a bit beyond nametag research. For example, the inter-webs revealed that she’s now a plastic surgeon, like me, and will soon be done with her residency. I also now know that, unfortunately, she keeps her social media private. Which means that I don’t know whether she’s married with two and a half kids or not. A possibility that feels as though it would ruin a lot more than just my evening.

Jake’s expression slides into amused incredulity, making my cheeks burn hotter than they already are.

“Pro tip: call her,” he says. “She probably has a phone.”

Like it’s that easy for me to cold-call her after all this time. Like I’ve got an outgoing or engaging personality with people I don’t know well. Please. My residents called me the Sphinx behind my back. They also used other, much more colorful descriptions, none of which I want to repeat here. My ex-wife once told me, and this is an actual quote, that attempts to communicate with me are like “watching a hostage video and trying to read between the lines.”

So you understand my dilemma and why I need moral support. I’m no charmer.

“You know I’m not good with people,” I say, exasperated. “Stop acting brand-new.”

“Well, that’s sadly true.”

“Pretend you’re a good wingman and—”

I catch sight of a woman walking through the crowd and stop dead, my heartbeat stumbling and stopping like a bike-riding kid who hits the curb and flips over the handlebars. She wears a coppery dress and has sports-toned legs, a deliciously curvy ass and a telltale tumble of sandy curls.

“Breathe,” Jake says wryly, clapping a hand on my shoulder for a supportive squeeze. “You don’t want to swallow your tongue.”

Now he tells me.

I keep one eye on her as I thrust my empty glass at Jake. I know I have a decent chance of tracking her down again unless she suddenly jumps overboard and swims for the shore. But I still don’t want to let her out of my sight.

“Be right back.”

“Go get ’em, tiger,” Jake calls after me, chuckling.

I weave my way through the crowd. The throng of people is endless, as though they’re all pouring out of a clown car hidden nearby and determined to block me. By the time I catch up to her, she’s settled at an out-of-the-way spot at the back of the boat, her elbows resting on the railing as she enjoys the view. The breeze sifts through her hair and carries her scent right to my nose. It’s something warm and inviting, with a hint of vanilla. Something that doesn’t help my equilibrium. At all.

By now, I’ve had a minute to gather my thoughts and cobble a few words together. I’m George Clooney or Will Smith in my mind, casual and charming for once as I slide in next to her and mirror her posture with my arms on the railing.

Great to see you, Ally.

Is that you, Ally? I’d hoped I’d see you here.

Something like that.

Don’t screw this up, Jamison, I warn myself, and for one euphoric second, I feel like I won’t.

So it’s with grave internal disappointment that I open my mouth and bark the following in the exact same tone with which I used to order her to get a complete blood count on a patient:

“Harlow. Thought that was you.”

She stiffens, her breath catching. It takes her a beat or two for her to turn her head and look at me, a delay long enough to give me the crazy idea that she recognizes my voice, that she needs to collect herself before facing me. Then her eyes meet mine, and I feel the connection as a pulse of electricity that makes all the fine hairs on my body stand on end before shooting up my nape and out through the top of my head. Swear to God, it feels powerful enough to light the entire island of Manhattan from Harlem to the Financial District the next time we have a blackout.

“Dr. Jamison. Hi.”

It’s hard to notice and catalogue every single detail about a person during a two-second increment of time, but I manage it like a pro as I stand there watching her. The clear, musical quality of her voice, exactly the way I remembered it. Those big, whiskey-colored eyes, a bit older and wiser now. That honeyed skin. The way her wide cheekbones taper to a pointy chin, giving her a heart-shaped face. The perfect cupid’s bow atop those lush lips. And that hair. There’s a Disney movie—Brave, I think—where the heroine’s red hair does its own thing. Almost as though it’s a living being with a pulse and a personality. Ally’s hair is like that, only it’s the perfect marriage of light brown, blond and this golden color that makes me think of unfiltered sunlight. It curls. It spirals. It falls on either side of her face and swings past her shoulders. It flutters with the breeze. It features prominently in my fantasies of her, where I fist it in my hands as it trails over my belly. Fantasies that have been plentiful since the second I laid eyes on her and which, as you can imagine, were damn inconvenient back when I was married.

Anyway, she said something. Now I should say something. That’s how it works.

I open my mouth. Nothing comes. Probably because I’m grappling with a tinge of despair in realizing I didn’t imagine or exaggerate anything about her. The unmistakable warmth is still there in her bright eyes. The musical quality in her voice is still there. If anything, she’s more than she was before, the human equivalent of a finely aged bottle of wine.

I’m not sure that’s good news for me. 

I’m not sure at all.

“I was wondering if you’d be here,” she says.

This information feels like a lotto win.

Tell her you were hoping she’d be here, whispers the voice inside my head, a smarter version of myself whose advice I don’t follow often enough.

“Yeah?” I say instead, trapped inside my reserved personality like a rat in a cage.

“Yeah. I know Dr. Smith was your chief resident when you were an intern.” She hesitates. “And I’d heard you were back from Los Angeles.”

Fun fact: Ally and I last saw each other at a bar near the hospital one night at the end of my year as chief resident and her year as my intern. After which I headed to UCLA for my fellowship and she took a brief leave of absence. I wasn’t big on moving out west, but Patricia got that job, and, like I said, I wanted to save my marriage if I could. God knew she’d sacrificed enough for me and my medical career. God also knew that I needed to leave the hospital, because saving my marriage and fighting my attraction to Ally while working with her at the hospital every day were mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, it turns out that geographical changes don’t save failing marriages. Something I wish someone had told me sooner.

The upshot? I packed up my shit and booked a flight back to NYC as soon as Patricia and I finalized our divorce.

Now here we are.

“I’m back,” I say. “Were they appropriately abusive to you residents after I left?”

“They were,” she says with a dramatic shudder. “It was torture. I still have the scars.”

“Good.”

She grins, activating her dimples and flashing her white teeth. The effect is dazzling, like the lights coming up on stage at the beginning of a Beyoncé concert, and the butterflies swooping through my gut like fighter jets react accordingly. 

I ease closer, drawn to that smile. To her.

“They weren’t up to your standards, though,” she adds.

This information pleases me greatly. “Few are. So what are you doing now?”

“Studying for my boards,” she says ruefully. “Trying to land a fellowship in plastics.”

“Here?”

She pauses, a shadow hovering over her expression just as a gust of wind whips up her hair. The silken strands tickle their way down my cheek and across my lips. Not exactly the sight of her dropping to her knees in front of me, but the effect is similar in terms of winding me up. I pull the thick curls away from my face and take my sweet time letting them slide free. And if a deft move or two wraps the strands around my fingers in the process (I’m a surgeon; I’ve got good hands), that’s not the end of the world, is it?

I certainly don’t think so.

Neither does she, judging by her rising color and sudden breathlessness as she gathers all that glorious hair and tosses it over her shoulder.

“Sorry,” she says, her voice a little husky now. “I can’t control what my hair does on any given day. Didn’t mean to assault you.”

Assault away, angel.

It’s okay, I want to tell her, but my fingers tingle and I need to figure out whether I’m imagining the way she’s looking at me with those glittering eyes. Whether the glitter comes from the city’s skyline or the kind of sexual attraction that I feel for her.

I could use a pep talk from my reluctant wingman right about now, but I know what he’d say. Ask her out, moron.

So I open my mouth, determined to go for it.

“Listen,” I begin, my voice gruff. “Do you want to—”

“Here’s your drink, babe,” comes an unwelcome new voice, breaking the spell between us and making me tense up.

A male voice.

I manage to look around without giving him the evil eye, a difficult feat with jealousy suddenly clamped around my throat. And there he is, wrapping a proprietary arm around her waist and kissing the cheek that I would dearly love to kiss. Her date. Or worse. 

But…no. 

A glance at her hand as she accepts a glass of champagne reveals no rings. 

I breathe easier. Not much, but some. They’re not married or engaged. Hopefully, she just met this guy a few weeks ago and plans to dump him for his use of a lame–ass endearment like babe. I wait for the introductions with what seems like my entire existence hanging in the balance.

“Thanks,” she tells the guy, looking flustered as she gestures at me without meeting my eye again. “This is, ah, Dr. Michael Jamison. My chief resident when I was an intern.”

I can’t manage a credible good to meet you. “How’re you doing?” I say instead, extending my hand.

I take a good look at him as he switches his beer to the other hand and we shake. That’s when I get another shock.

He doesn’t quite hit my height of six-two, but he’s fit like me. I’m guessing he’s in his thirties, like me. He has tan skin, dark hair and a close-cropped beard. Like me. We could be brothers. If they ever make a movie about my life, central casting will send over this guy.

“Bruce Whitaker,” he says as I’m still trying to absorb what I’m seeing. He doesn’t have my deep voice, but it’s damn close. “Ally’s boyfriend.”

COPYRIGHT 2021 by Ava Ryan 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED