One Perfect Moment
Book 3 in the Temptation Series
He thought he’d escaped his notorious history—
Now she could thrust him back in the spotlight…
TV producer Ava Cannon is stunned to discover that the secret lover who briefly shared her bed is one of America’s most famous sextuplets. But Dr. Gage Taylor now shuns the spotlight. As they rekindle their sizzling affair, will Ava have to choose between a game-changing career move and the man she loves?
One Perfect Moment
Staten Island, New York
“Just this one time,” Ava Cannon whispered as his hands cupped her butt.
“Once is enough,” Gage Taylor murmured while moving them further into her trailer.
He kicked the door closed with his foot, pausing a second to reach back and lock it. Then his hands were on her once more, his mouth crashing down over hers. The kiss took her breath away, every stroke of his tongue sending searing bolts of desire through her system until her fingers were gripping his shirt. The feel of his strong biceps through the cotton material coupled with the hardness of his body now pressed closely against hers, caused Ava’a knees to tremble.
This was what she’d been fighting for the last couple of months. Each day she’d stepped onto the set of Doctor’s Orders, knowing that he would be there. The strong hands that she’d seen holding her script as he’d checked the words she’d written, monitoring them for medical accuracy, now touched her body.
“It will be enough,” Ava whispered when he tore his mouth away from hers and she could take a breath.
He pulled the hem of her shirt from her pants. She lifted her arms up over her head and he pulled the shirt off. His hands immediately went around her to the clasp of her bra that he quickly unhooked before removing and tossing it somewhere on the trailer floor.
“Enough,” he mumbled as he dipped his head. “More than enough.”
His lips were on her breast then, teeth holding a turgid nipple before he sucked her in deep. Ava arched her back, her hands going to his shoulders as she tried to hold on to him. When he moved to the other breast, she let her head lull back, her eyes closing to the delicious sensations rippling throughout her body.
Dr. Gage Taylor was a brilliant obstetrician and researcher. He’d come highly recommended when she’d asked who in the New York area would be a good consultant for her show. And when he arrived in her office that first day she’d been rewarded with how jaw-dropping handsome the guy was. Ava should have known then that she was in trouble.
Now, she was pulling at his shirt until the buttons popped off. He grunted and hurried to unsnap his pants while she did the same, toed off her flats and pushed her pants and panties down her legs. His shirt was on the floor, his pants undone, his hands moving quickly to pull a condom packet from his wallet. She pushed his pants and his boxers down. He ripped the condom packet open and smoothed the latex over his length. He wore leather loafers that he kicked off his feet before stepping out of his pants.
Ava sat on the couch. She scooted back on the wide pillows and looked up at all of the heavenly goodness that was Gage Taylor. Six feet one inch of golden honey hued skin, ripped abs, muscled limbs, and a thick, long erection. She swallowed as her gaze rested there.
“Just this once,” he said, his voice deep and husky in the confined space of the trailer.
Ava licked her lips and nodded. “Yes, just this once.”
He was over her by then, his lips on hers, his knee spreading her legs apart. She opened her mouth to his assault, clasped her hands to the back of his head to hold him there. He pushed them both back to a lying position on the couch, arranging himself between her legs. He said something, but Ava couldn’t hear him over the pounding of her heart and the rush of desire.
Her legs were already trembling by the time the crest of his erection touched her entrance. He pressed harder. She moaned deeper and their “one” time began.
New York City
Three Weeks Later
Gage stepped out onto the sidewalk on a crisp October morning, three weeks after they’d wrapped up shooting on Doctor’s Orders. Despite the strange hours he’d been keeping during the seven weeks he served as an on-site consultant for the network medical drama, this morning he was expected at the hospital by nine. That meant he was taking his usual four block walk to the Nancy Links Medical Center where he’d worked as an obstetrician for the last four years.
He held his briefcase in one hand, cell phone in the other as he walked away from the thirty-story condo building, his Italian leather dress shoes clicking on the sidewalk. This afternoon he was seeing patients, but this morning was relatively free, he noted as he looked at his mobile calendar. Gage learned early in life that being organized was a necessity. Growing up in a household with five siblings meant he had to know what was his and where his personal belongings were at all times. He’d learned a lot growing up as one of the infamous Taylor sextuplets, enough to make not repeating past mistakes one of his main priorities in life.
He looked up in time to see the light changing and then crossed the street just before his phone rang.
“Dr. Taylor,” he answered because he could see from the caller ID that it was the hospital calling.
“Good morning,” his assistant Carrie replied.
Carrie had been with him for the last six months. For his first two years at the medical center he’d been in residency and then his inaugural research paper on infertility and the strides that had been made in the field had been published. That had propelled his career and Gage became a staff obstetrician as well as a grant recipient to continue his research in the following weeks. With those dual titles he’d been given a corner office on the hospital’s fourth floor, an administrative assistant and just recently a lab assistant. His first admin had gone on maternity leave just weeks before his father’s death last September. Since then, he’d gone through three more assistants who had been sent to him via an employment agency. Who would have thought that after all this time out of the spotlight, there would still be someone—actually three women—who not only knew who he was, but were also ready to claim their place in the spotlight by either working for him, or possibly sleeping with him.
Gage blamed his father’s death, a year ago, for the renewed interest in the first African American sextuplets to be born in Temptation, Virginia thirty years ago. After leaving his wife and seven-year-old children, Theodor Taylor had gone on to become the CEO of Taylor Manufacturing, building an empire that designed engines for a Japanese automotive company. Stock in the company had soared at the time of Theodor’s death and when it was announced that the estate would be handled by the children, Gage recalled fielding calls from newspaper reporters to investors asking about their plans for the international company. That was until Gray, the oldest Taylor sextuplet, brokered a deal to sell Taylor Manufacturing and divided the proceeds evenly amongst the siblings.
“Dr. Gogenheim wants to see you as soon as you get in this morning,” Carrie had been saying as Gage shook his head to rid himself of the memories of his father.
“Really? I didn’t see anything on my calendar for this morning,” he replied. “I planned to reach out to that research facility in Paris before their offices close for the day when I get in.”
“I recall you mentioning that yesterday when we spoke, however, Dr. Gogenheim’s assistant just called to see if you were in yet. I told her you were on your way.”
“I am,” Gage said just before a driver slammed on the brakes subsequently causing the cars behind him to do the same.
Those were the glorious sounds of a morning during rush hour traffic. When the noise subsided, he continued. “Fine, I’ll go right up to his office, but please have the number and the name of a contact person at the facility in Paris on my desk for when I return.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll get that information now.”
“Thank you, and Carrie?”
“Yes, sir, I hadn’t gone down to get your Café Americano yet. I’ll wait about half an hour. It will be on your desk when you finish with Dr. Gogenheim.”
Gage smiled. “Thanks Carrie.”
He’d never been a morning person. To survive undergrad, med school and residency, required the strongest coffee possible. Luckily for him there was a Starbucks on the ground floor of the medical center. Gage showed his appreciation for Carrie going the extra mile to get his coffee by opening a credit account with the barista and paying monthly for all the drinks and any other items that he and Carrie ordered.
Disconnecting the call Gage scrolled through some of the email messages he’d missed in the last couple of days because he’d spent the weekend at a colleague’s house in the Hamptons.
Gage approached the hospital minutes later and walked through the revolving glass doors. His honey colored Tom Ford burnished leather wingtip lace-up shoes clicked against the polished floors as he made his way through the lobby and down the hall toward the elevators that would lead to the Obstetrics and Gynecology floors. He slipped his phone into his suit jacket pocket just before stepping into the elevator. When he heard someone yelling “Hold the elevator”, he extended his arm so that his briefcase kept the elevator door from closing.
“Thanks,” the woman dressed in light blue scrubs said as she made her way into the compartment and pressed the floor she needed.
“No problem,” Gage said and returned the smile she was so eagerly offering.
As the elevator began to move, he thought of how pretty she was with her dark brown hair pulled back from her face, and green eyes twinkling each time she looked up at him. He could ask her out, but he’d decided a long time ago that the quick, no-commitment type of interaction he preferred to have with women didn’t bode well in the workplace.
The elevator stopped on her floor and before she stepped off, she turned back to look at him. “Have a great day, Dr. Taylor.”
Her arm extended and Gage looked down at the business card she held in her hand. He immediately accepted the card and wished her a great day as well. When the doors closed and he was alone, Gage looked down at the card, a smile ghosting his face.
“Miranda,” he said and continued to read the words on the card as the elevator moved again.
She was a radiologist on the third floor. And she was hot. He tucked the card into the side of his briefcase and stepped off the elevator when it opened on his floor. He wasn’t going to call her, Gage told himself. Regardless of how good she looked. He had rules and he stuck to them, always.
“Good morning, Dr. Taylor. Dr. Gogenheim is waiting for you,” the receptionist when he stopped in front of her. “Just go on back to his office.”
“Thank you,” Gage replied with a nod.
He was known throughout the hospital, a fact which should have bothered him considering he despised his family’s notoriety. But this was different. Gage’s recognition at the hospital came primarily from being a talented doctor who brought huge research grants to the facility and added to their already stellar reputation. The Taylors of Temptation, on the other hand, had commercialized a serious health condition for thousands of couples and topped that off with a very public betrayal of marriage vows and desertion of a family. It had been the beginning of the worst years of Gage’s life.
Thankfully, that was then and this was now.
He gave a quick knock and then entered the office. Mortimer Gogenheim sat behind his desk, his thinning black hair brushed neatly to one side of his head, thick framed glasses perched on his crooked nose.
“Good morning, Gage. Take a seat,” he said.
Gage nodded and moved to sit in one of the guest chairs across from the sleek dark wood desk. “Good morning,” Gage replied. “I was surprised you wanted to see me so early. I thought the board meeting was scheduled for this morning.”
Which was why he hadn’t scheduled anything on his personal or business calendar. Gage wanted to be available the moment the Board of Directors decided he would become the youngest Chief of Obstetrics at the medical center. With all the research work he’d done this year, coupled with the latest grant that would fund the department’s research labs for the next three years, he was a shoo-in for the position. At least that’s what Mortimer told him a couple of months ago. After that conversation, Gage was elated that his dream was about to become a reality, much sooner than he ever anticipated.
“We had the meeting last night over dinner. My son-in-law received a job offer in Europe so my daughter announced two weeks ago that they were moving over there. My wife was beside herself with worry at not being able to see the grandkids. So I’m stepping down sooner than I’d planned because we’re going to move over there with them,” Mortimer said as he sat forward, letting his arms rest on the desk.
Gage nodded. “Family first,” he said. “I understand.”
He did understand that concept even if he didn’t have a wife and kids of his own. Outside of his job, Gage only had his family. His five siblings—Gray, Garrek, Gemma, Genevieve “Gen” and Gia—who lived in different areas of the United States. They’d grown up in a tight-knit household and even though distance separated them, they’d tried to remain as close as their mother always wanted.
“Good,” Mortimer told him with a nod. “So I’ll get right to the point.”
Gage sat up straighter in the chair and thought about how his sisters were going to react when they heard the news. His oldest brother, Gray, was an overachiever himself becoming one of the first African American billionaires to own and operate his own electronics company before he turned thirty. And Garrek was an exceptional Navy pilot who was steadily moving up in the ranks. They were both tenacious and goal-oriented, just like Gage. His sisters each had stellar careers as well. Gemma owned an upscale beauty salon in Washington D.C., while Gen ran her own software development company and Gia worked as an executive chef at one of Chicago’s swankiest restaurants. He’d call Gemma first, he decided as he nodded and stared expectantly at Mortimer. She would never let him live it down if he didn’t.
“The Chief position is going to Edgar Rodenstein. He’s been in this field for more than thirty years and he’s worked with the Medical Director before. In fact, Bart was the one who recommended Edgar for the job. So we’re confident that the transition will be smooth. You, on the other hand, we’re extremely happy with the work you’ve been doing in infertility and multiple birth research. We’d like you to continue in that vein and will possibly entertain a Chief Researcher position in the future.”
Gage was stunned.
The calm and relaxed feeling he’d had only moments ago as he’d stepped off the elevator had dissipated. It was now replaced with a sick feeling that had him shaking his head.
“Bart,” he began and then corrected himself. “The Medical Director hand-selected who would work with him?” he asked and then answered his own question. “Of course, he did.”
Because that’s what men like Bart Thomas did when faced with a younger, smarter and more innovative candidate. He selected the guy he knew best, the one he could control under the guise of training, no doubt. Gage was livid.
“I guess that makes sense,” he continued because he had no intention of showing Mortimer how truly upset about this development he was.
Mortimer nodded and cleared his throat. “It makes perfect sense. The Board agreed. The transition will begin immediately. We’ll need you to be on hand in case further press conferences or other media appearances are required.”
“I’m not sure that will be possible, Mortimer,” he said before he could completely work through his thoughts. “These past few months have been a little hectic with my research and patient list, combined with the work on the reality show. I was actually considering taking some time off.”
Mortimer sat back in his burgundy leather chair, setting his elbows on the arms and clasping his hands. “Really?” he asked and arched a bushy gray-haired brow.
“Yes,” Gage replied, his tone smooth and even, as if this was what he’d planned to say from the moment he walked into the office. “My brother and his wife have just welcomed twins and I’ve been meaning to get down to Virginia to see them.”
“Well, the arrival of babies is always a festive occasion,” Mortimer said. “Especially in our business.”
Gage chuckled along with him. “Definitely. So, I’ll be completing the proper paperwork this morning and briefing the other doctors in my department on my patient statuses.”
“How long do you plan to be away?” Mortimer asked. “The department agreed to work around the shooting schedule for that show because it was good exposure for us to have your name and the hospital’s name running in the credits of a nationally viewed television show every week. New patient visits at the clinic have grown by thirty percent in that time.”
Gage nodded. He didn’t need Mortimer to tell him that he’d been an asset to the medical center. He already knew that. Which is why being passed over for this promotion was a bunch of good-ole-boy crap that Gage did not appreciate.
“I’m aware,” he replied. “Which is why I believe that a three-week vacation is not only warranted but justified.”
While Gage had adjusted his hours at the medical center during the shooting of Doctor’s Orders, he hadn’t missed a beat with his own patients and had even been on-call most of the time while on set, rushing to the medical center to deliver three babies for other doctors who were on vacation. He would wait to see if Mortimer pressed this issue to play that card.
Instead Mortimer nodded, his cool gaze resting on Gage. “You’re right,” he said. “I’d hoped, however, that you would be available to represent the hospital to the media.”
“I’d rather stay out of the media, if at all possible, Mortimer. I’m sure you understand my reasons,” Gage told him.
While he’d been more than excited to have his research paper published and enjoyed the accolades that came his way in the medical industry, Gage did not do media. He never granted interviews and did not appear for photo opportunities or press conferences. Up until this point, Mortimer had been happy to stand with his chest poked out, speaking on behalf of their department.
This was why Gage had been more than surprised when a production assistant from the television station had contacted him with regard to working on a show they were developing. He’d immediately turned them down, thinking they were asking him to star in the show. Gage never wanted to be in front of a camera again. But when he found out the position was simply as a consultant where he could lend his expertise and still stay in the background, he’d agreed.
“Yes,” Mortimer replied. “I do understand.”
“Well, then,” Gage said as he stood. “I’ll head down to congratulate Ed and then take care of the arrangements for my vacation.”
“How are you going to adjust for three weeks without being at the hospital?” Mortimer asked. “You are your career, Gage.”
Gage nodded because just fifteen minutes ago he’d been telling himself that as well.
“I’m going to be with my family, Mortimer,” was all he’d said before walking out of the office.
Gage squared his shoulders and walked as proudly as if he’d just received the best news of his life, down the hall and back to the elevator. As far as his career went, he wasn’t sure what his next step was going to be, but didn’t doubt that he would figure it out. He always did. For now, Gage was going to see Gray and his new nieces and nephews. He was going back to family, the only people he could ever depend on.
Ava wanted to scream at her mother.
It wasn’t the first time and she was fairly certain it wouldn’t be the last. But instead of screaming, she used the fact that she was running late for a meeting to get off the phone with Eleanor Cannon. That was only a temporary reprieve, but Ava would take what she could get.
Coffee spilled onto the marble floor as she stepped into the hallway of the Yearling Broadcast Network. Two years ago, when Ava was just twenty-five years old, she’d walked down this same hallway with her heart pounding wildly, her entire life bound in sixty-three typed pages. The TV script for Doctor’s Orders was the result of a year and a half’s work, researching and developing her idea for the new medical drama. She was young and unknown at that time but had landed the face-to-face meeting with Carroll Fleming through the showrunner for another show where she’d worked as a staff writer. Now, Carroll was her current executive at the network after helping her to develop and launch Doctor’s Orders.
Today’s meeting was with Carroll and Jenner Reisling, a development executive at the same network. Ava was going to pitch her new series idea to them and prayed that the success of Doctor’s Orders, currently the network’s number two show on Thursday nights, would add weight to the new pilot following the lives of African American law students navigating their way through school, the professional world and, of course, love.
She was only a few minutes late but hated that just the same. Ava prided herself on being professional at all times. She’d had to be. As a woman in the television industry she knew she had to be on her game, no matter what her credentials were.
“I apologize for being late,” she said immediately upon entering the conference room. “I know your time is valuable, so I’m ready to get started.”
Carroll, with his shiny bald head and long bushy red beard sat forward in the chair he’d been lounging in.
“Don’t speak of it,” he said, pulling some papers that had been spread across the conference room table into a neat pile. “We were just talking about the ratings for the season finale of Doctor’s Orders.”
“Phenomenal,” Jenner, a slim man with dirty blond hair and dark brown framed glasses, said. “As a first-year procedural in a really competitive time slot, you knocked it out of the box with this one.”
Ava beamed. That was the praise she’d wanted to hear this last year. Actually, the last five years since she’d decided that writing was her niche. She didn’t believe it was conceited at all to like hearing that she’d done a good, no, a great job with her first network show. Especially not after all the critical words she received from her mother in her lifetime. If she’d listened to anything Eleanor Cannon said, Ava doubted she’d be where she was today.
“I’m elated at the show’s success,” she said and pulled three copies of her newest screenplay out of her bag.
The bag was huge and just a little worn around the straps. It was her favorite because it easily accommodated all the necessities she carried with her daily. Today, in addition to the script, she’d added her hand-held recorder so she would be sure not to miss anything that was said in this meeting, a second spiral notebook which would be solely dedicated to this screenplay and any additional work she needed to do on it, and her newest pair of reading glasses because she’d accidentally stepped on the old pair when they’d fallen off the desk in her apartment.
“We are too,” Carroll continued and folded his hands over his stack of papers.
Jenner sat right next to him, smiling across the table at Ava.
“Yes, that’s great,” she continued as she pushed copies of the bound pages toward each of them. When they were both looking down at the cover page, Ava took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“That brings me to this new pitch. Two young African American women spend their weekdays attending competing law schools, drinking and partying on weekends and navigating the murky waters of dating twenty-four seven. This new vibrant urban take on sex as young professionals in the city will cater to the twenty to thirty-something crowd. A prime time slot would be Sunday evenings. This would be an hour-long show, with a huge draw to advertisers geared toward the female consumer.”
Jenner flipped through the pages of the script and glanced down at them. Carroll did neither. Instead Ava found him staring at her as he drummed his fingers over his stack of papers.
“We have another idea in mind,” Carroll told her.
Ava was about to open her mouth to speak, but she thought better of it. She always tried to evaluate her words carefully. Something else she’d learned from her mother, or rather because of her mother. Eleanor Cannon said whatever she wanted to say, whenever she wanted to say it. Even if it ended with hurt feelings or offense. Her mother believed that because she was a millionaire, she was entitled to speak her mind and never apologized for doing so. Ava believed in giving people respect and demanded the same in return.
“I don’t understand,” she replied finally.
“Not that this wouldn’t be great,” Jenner began. “You’ve already proven that you have your finger on the pulse of what viewers want. And your pitch was quite intriguing. But I’m looking for something specific to boost our reality television programming.”
“I see,” Ava said. “I don’t write reality TV shows.”
She rarely even watched them. While they were extremely profitable and most brought in huge ratings and large sums of advertising dollars, they didn’t exhibit the creativity and originality Ava liked to pour into her shows.
“You haven’t yet,” Carroll said, his excited smile spreading widely across his face.
The last time Ava had seen that smile was the day he’d showed up in her trailer on the set in New York to tell her they’d been renewed for a second season. That had been just six hours before she’d returned to her trailer with another man—the man who continued to creep into her thoughts on a daily basis.
“These are notes on the previous show of this kind,” Carroll continued. “We want you to look at these to get a feel for the subject matter.”
“You’ll still have creative freedom to work this out in the way you see fit, but we’re really aiming for the family reunion angle. If you can have a preliminary outline of the show in three months, we’ll be ready to shoot the first pilot right after the first of the year. We already have the time slot selected. It will air at eight o’clock Thursday evening with its debut on Thanksgiving Day. This will give us time to put a vigorous promotional plan in effect,” Jenner told her.
Carroll was nodding now as he pushed that pile of papers across the table to her.
“Doctor’s Orders is number #1 in the Thursday at eight slot,” she said slowly, not liking where she felt like this was possibly going.
“We know! We know,” Carroll continued with glee. “That’s why this is so perfect. That’s why you are the perfect one to write this new script.”
“I thought reality shows were supposed to be unscripted,” Ava told him. “If you already have the idea and time slot locked in, you don’t need me.”
Besides, Marcelle, her agent, hadn’t said anything to her about the network wanting her to work on a different project. She’d spoken to her late last night and they were both pumped about the new pilot idea. Ava wasn’t interested in a reality television show.
“Oh but we do,” Jenner said. “I believe you can bring a fresh slant to this idea and the execution of the show.”
Carroll nodded enthusiastically. “We both believe you can do this, Ava. Especially since you already have a foot in the door with one of the stars of the show,” Carroll continued.
“What are you talking about?” Ava asked. “This is the first I’ve heard of this show at all. How do I know who is staring in it?”
Carroll rubbed his thick fingers together and Ava would swear his cool gray eyes glowed with excitement.
“His name is Gage Taylor. He just worked on Doctor’s Orders with you,” Carroll said.
Gage Taylor, as in the gorgeous doctor who she’d spent the last two and a half months acting as if she weren’t attracted to. The man who she’d finally decided to have once and for all as a celebratory prize for the second season renewal. The guy who she hadn’t seen since that night, yet had thought about at least once each day in the past two weeks.
“He’s a doctor,” she said after taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly. “Is this show about doctors? Because I really don’t want to work in the same area. That’s why my new show idea is so different from Doctor’s Orders. One is a procedural drama, while the other will be mostly drama, with lots of sex thrown in.”
“No,” Jenner replied. “This show is not about doctors. It has its own fantastic and totally original idea we’re trying to bring across!” Jenner told her. “It’s a reality television family coming back together thirty years after their original story aired. We’re going to call it The Taylors of Temptation: Remember the Times.”
Ava sat back in her chair and stared at them.
“Thirty years ago Octavia and Theodor Taylor had the first sextuplets born in the town of Temptation, Virginia. The parents are dead now, but we want to bring the sextuplets together again, in Temptation, to see how their lives have changed,” Jenner told her. “The network is already on board with the concept and you writing it. All you have to do is grab your computer and head out to Temptation to get started.”
She had never heard of The Taylors of Temptation. Probably because she was only twenty-seven and this show would have originally aired before she was born. Gage Taylor had come to her via recommendation from Daniel, her production assistant, whose wife Leslie was one of Gage’s patients. Ava knew they’d need a consultant to make sure the storylines surrounding the doctors and the clinic where they worked, was as authentic as possible. So she’d taken Daniel and Leslie’s word for how good Gage was and ended up enjoying working with him. A lot.
She folded her hands in her lap and shook her head once more. “I do not write reality television,” she told them again.
This time Carroll’s smile disappeared, and the cold edge of those gray eyes rested solely on her.
“Then you don’t write another show for this network,” he said with finality.
Ava couldn’t breathe. She wanted to curse or kick something…possibly Carroll. Instead she kept her lips tightly clamped.
“Look, Ava, we like you,” Jenner began. “Doctor’s Orders is doing very well and we’d love to continue working with you. To possibly develop other shows with you in the future. But for right now, this is the show we want. Do you understand?”
She absolutely did. They were giving her an ultimatum. One Ava didn’t know if she could walk away from.