Title: Unchained Memories
Author: Maria Imbalzano
Genre: Contemporary Romance
As a rising medical malpractice attorney, Charlotte Taylor believes in standing up for the injured, giving them a voice, and advocating for their rights. She couldn't do it for her mother, so she does it for others, even if it means losing the love of her life.
Dr. Clayton Montgomery believes in working hard and playing even harder, until he reconnects with Charlotte. Barely noticing her crush when he tutored her ten years ago, Clay has a chance to make up for lost time when the beautiful lawyer comes back into town...until he discovers her chosen career path.
Now, philosophical differences soon become a reality and Charlotte is faced with the choice of representing a client against the hospital, and against Clay. Will Charlotte give up her career and her tribute to her mother for a second chance with the man who got away?
Red. Hot. Sexy.
Like magnets, Clay’s eyes clicked on Charlotte, unable to repel the force that held them. Tall and graceful, her chestnut hair was held up in a loose, sexy do that had him itching to pull the pins that would release it. Her strapless dress showcased a long neck and creamy shoulders that called out to be kissed. His involuntary focus on her lovely traits throughout the evening had made him a rude dinner companion; unable to answer even the easiest of questions.
He had come here tonight to socialize with the powers that be at the hospital, to talk up the ER, to lay the ground work for future requests. But his concentration had been directed elsewhere. Since he’d squandered his opportunity to network, he should leave. But here he was at the bar at ten-thirty, waiting for a scotch and soda. The band was heavily into their Motown set and many of the revelers packed the dance floor.
Across the room, Clay zeroed in on Charlotte talking to a group of men, her red gown like a flame in a sea of black. He smiled. She sure knew how to turn heads. His included.
But he knew her better than those clowns. He knew the sweet, tough eighteen year old who’d lost her parents within hours of each other. The broken girl whose emotional health had worried Dr. Collins, their Chief of Surgery, much more than her physical wounds.
As the band segued into a slow song, Clay covered the distance between them. “Excuse us, gentlemen, but the lady promised me a dance, and I’d like to claim it now.” He deposited his drink on an empty table and guided her toward the dance floor.
“I don’t recall promising you a dance.” Her beautiful face held the hint of a smile.
“You don’t? Then I must have dreamed it.”
He pulled her into his embrace, and moved with the music around the floor, feeling like one of the luckiest men there. Although she hadn’t promised anything, she glided around the room, following his lead. Her perfume intoxicated him more than any drink ever could, and the feel of her graceful body against his, had his heart palpitating.
Little Charley Taylor had certainly grown up, and he couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to know her now. As an adult. Ten years removed from the time their lives had intersected.
He called on his memory, pulling up their very last encounter.
“I’m leaving for college today.” She stood tentatively in his office doorway, her crystal blue eyes so expressive in their sadness. “I wanted to thank you for all your help – especially with physics and calculus. I never would have done so well without . . . you.” She avoided his eyes as her voice trailed off, choked with tears.
His heart constricted, startling him. He hadn’t anticipated the day she would no longer be around – trailing him at the hospital, asking incessant questions, teasing him for being so serious. His life was on overload with his internship, not allowing him to realize the time he dedicated to her was not just tolerated, but treasured.
He walked around the desk intending to give her a friendly hug, but when he took her in his arms something changed. Her familiar flowery scent awakened his senses as if he’d been in a deep sleep and he closed his eyes to heighten the aroma. Her body fit against his like a shadow. He fought the confusing stimuli - this was Charley, his former patient and pupil. But that wasn’t who he held close, who he breathed in. When had she become more than that?
Charley hugged him hard, laughing through tears. “I hate good-byes.” She turned to make her escape, then added, “Dr. Collins has my information at school. Call me sometime. Let me know what you’re up to.”
Clipped, hasty words said with a matter-of-factness meant to cover up the emotions she clearly felt. The same emotions that had just blind-sided him.
Then she turned and walked away, her new life ahead of her.
Clay’s lips touched her forehead as they circled the dance floor. He closed his eyes taking in the smooth feel of her skin. Before he could stop himself he asked, “How’d you like to go out to dinner one night next week?”
She pulled back to look at him. As if to gauge his sincerity – or perhaps his motives.
“I . . . I don’t know. Maybe.”
Disappointment moved through him. Why was she being hesitant, cool? It wasn’t as if she didn’t know him. Christ, he’d spent countless hours tutoring her. Even more time talking to her, being her friend, so she wouldn’t feel so alone.
Could a decade erase all that and make them near strangers? He didn’t think so. The second he’d realized it was her tonight, the years had melted away. They’d fallen into easy conversation. Since she was back again, why couldn’t two old friends reconnect?
In no time, the song ended and Charlotte slipped out of his arms. “Thanks for the dance. I better get back to my table and say my good-byes.”
He held onto her hand. “Don’t go.” He didn’t know what else to say. It sounded so pathetic. But he didn’t want the night to end. Confusion pulled at his brain. Why did he want her to stay? Why was she so anxious to get away from him? They’d had a nice talk earlier. All he’d done now was ask her out to dinner. But if she wasn’t interested . . .
What’s your favorite way to combat stress?
Exercise. I love Jazzercize because I love to dance. The teachers from my studio have cleared rooms at their homes and stream their class over Facebook. I also have a ballet barre at home and find YouTube videos with ballet exercises. If I’m not into exercise on any particular day but stressed, I listen to country music and sing.
Why is your featured book a stress busting read?
“Unchained Memories” will transport you from your everyday world to the legal world of medical malpractice cases where the heroine, a medical malpractice attorney, and the hero, an ER doctor, have philosophical differences over the merits of such claims. Their respective passion for their careers pits them against each other, while their passion for each other opens their minds and hearts. An emotional read, this story will have you smiling, crying, and routing for them to find their path to everlasting love.
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Maria Imbalzano is a retired matrimonial lawyer who now writes full time. Instead of drafting motions, legal memoranda, and briefs, although fascinating, she now spends her days creating memorable characters and taking them on their emotional journeys through her contemporary romance novels.
In addition to writing fiction, Maria is on the Friends of Thomas Edison State University Foundation Committee and is still involved with Dress for Success Central Jersey, having been a founding Board member. She also serves on the finance committee for The Present Day Club. She has received the distinguished Family of Edison Award for her work with The Thomas Edison State University Foundation, the Iron Mike Professional Achievement Award from Trenton Catholic Academy and was inducted into the Italian American National Hall of Fame.
Her novel, “Unchained Memories,” won the Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Readers’ Award and the ACRA Readers’ Choice Heart of Excellence Award. “Sworn to Forget,” the first of the four-book Sworn Sisters Series was a finalist for the illustrious RONE award as well as the Book Buyers Best Award.
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