The cover fairies are always gracious, but sometimes I just can’t stop looking at a cover. I do love a good sunset, and this cover has to be one of my favourites!
Hospital gossip was a bit like the wind: unpredictable and prone to sudden gusts in one direction or another. Information could easily end up at the furthest corner of the hospital before it came to the notice of the people involved. So it was no particular surprise to Chloe Delancourt that she’d walked all the way over to the canteen before hearing a piece of news that quite obviously pertained to her.
‘So what’s all this about your boyfriend and a baby?’ One of the other junior doctors joined her at the end of the queue.
‘My boyfriend?’ Jake was long gone, and if he did have a baby it was nothing to do with her.
Petra grinned. ‘All right, so he’s not your boyfriend. Since he’s good looking, single and living with you, that might be classed as an omission on your part.’
‘You mean Jon?’ Chloe had only seen Dr Jonathan Lambert for a total of about ten minutes since he’d moved in two weeks ago.
‘How many good-looking men are you living with currently?’
‘Just the one…’ The ten minutes had been more than enough to notice that he was good looking. And that he had a delicious smile. But apart from that all she really knew about him was that he was a good friend of her brother’s and he kept the bathroom tidy. He’d started his new job at the hospital six weeks earlier than anticipated and had needed a place to stay because the renovations on his own house weren’t finished yet.
‘Glad to hear it. If there was more than one of them, I’d be looking for an invitation to come over for dinner at the weekend.’
Chloe shrugged. ‘Come over anyway, I’m not doing anything tomorrow. It’ll be just the two of us, though, he’s not exactly made his presence felt.’
‘If he’s working nights then I suppose you wouldn’t see much of him during the week…’ Petra was obviously turning the idea over in her head.
‘Or the weekend. He spends every waking hour over at his place. I’ve hardly seen him.’ Maybe Jon was avoiding her. Or maybe he just took the promise that she’d hardly know he was there very seriously. Whatever. It suited Chloe not to get too involved with a face as handsome as his.
‘Well, he’s here now. With a baby.’
‘What kind of baby?’
Petra rolled her eyes. ‘Two arms, two legs…the usual. A little girl, he was calling her Amy…’
‘What?’ Chloe almost dropped her tray and instead thrust it into Petra’s hands. ‘Where is he?’
‘He was in A and E about five minutes ago. Someone said he’d asked for directions up to Orthopaedics—.’ Petra broke off as Chloe turned, running for the doors of the canteen.
Chloe had sprinted across the courtyard and up three flights of stairs, back to her own department. Jon had been up to Orthopaedics and left a message that he was going back downstairs to A and E. By the time she got down to the Paediatric A and E department she could hardly breathe so it was just as well that the receptionist knew what she wanted without Chloe having to say so.
‘That was quick, I’ve only just paged you. They’ve just gone through. Consulting Room Three.’
The pager in Chloe’s pocket buzzed suddenly and she jumped, switching it off. Taking a deep breath, in an effort to slow her racing heart, she thanked the receptionist and walked slowly towards the consulting rooms.
If Amy was here, then where was Hannah? And if Hannah had left her child with Jon that posed a whole slew of other questions that Chloe really didn’t want to think about until she was sure of the situation. She knocked and turned the handle of the consulting-room door before whoever was inside had a chance to answer.
Jon was lifting Amy out of her car seat. He’d obviously dressed quickly, because his shirt was buttoned up wrong, leaving one red checked tail slightly longer than the other at the front. Amy fretted a little, and then seemed to decide that the strong cradle of Jon’s arms was a safe place.
She hadn’t noticed how blue his eyes were before, or how tender. Or that his light brown hair, falling across his brow, gave him a slightly boyish look. Or that his hands seemed so large and capable next to Amy’s tiny fingers.
‘Sit down.’ Amy stirred slightly at Jon’s words, and then snuggled back against his chest. For a moment it seemed the best place in the world to be. Held in his arms without a care in the world.
But if Amy didn’t seem concerned about the whereabouts of her mother, Chloe was. ‘Where’s my sister?’
‘Hannah’s at your place.’ The tenderness in his eyes seemed reserved just for Amy, and he gave Chloe a more dispassionate look. ‘Sit…’
Clearly something was up, and he wasn’t going to tell her until she was sitting down. She bit back the temptation to tell him that she was a doctor too, and that she’d been working at this hospital a good deal longer than he had. Even if she did feel far more like a slightly panicky aunt than a doctor at the moment.
The dark blue windcheater on the chair next to him had been hanging in her hallway for the past two weeks, and was probably the most familiar thing about him. Chloe moved it, draping it over the backrest. When she sat down, an elusive hint of his scent halted the clamour of her senses for a moment, as if they’d paused to appreciate it. This wasn’t the time, or the place…
His eyes and the slight curve of his lips invited calm. No… Actually, they invited surrender, and that wasn’t something that Chloe was prepared to give. ‘Tell me what’s happened.’
‘Hannah was worried about Amy and she took her to her own doctor this morning. He told her that Amy just had a virus, but Hannah thought it was something more so she brought her to you.’
‘And…?’ Chloe reached across to feel Amy’s forehead. She was a little feverish, and her cheeks were flushed.
‘I agreed with Hannah. So I brought Amy here, where she could be examined and treated properly.’
‘But where’s Hannah?’ Chloe couldn’t keep the frustration from her voice.
‘She’s at your place. She was…a little distressed.’
‘A little distressed?’ Chloe frowned at him. Jon didn’t need to play the situation down for her benefit.
‘She was crying her eyes out, and she insisted on staying behind while I brought Amy here.’ Chloe’s eyebrows shot up and he flashed her a cool smile. ‘It’s okay. I got to know Hannah quite well when she was staying with James. She wasn’t entrusting Amy to a stranger.’
So, however distressed Hannah was, she was still thinking straight. That was something. James had mentioned that a friend of his had helped out a lot with Hannah, spending time with her and letting her talk, but Chloe hadn’t realised it was Jon.
But if Hannah had found someone to talk to in Jon, then Chloe couldn’t see how. He seemed somehow distant, as if Amy was the only person in the room he could trust with an unreserved smile.
‘Then you’ll know that Hannah’s…vulnerable.’ Chloe twisted her lips. Vulnerable wasn’t quite the right word. Hannah could be surprisingly strong and very determined. But she was young. Troubled sometimes.
‘I know that she’s almost ten years younger than you, and that she was only nine when you lost both your parents. That you and James have done your best to look after her, but it hasn’t always been easy.’
‘No, it hasn’t.’ Chloe hadn’t made it any easier. Hannah had always wanted to live with her, and Chloe had worked hard, saving every penny she could and adding to her third of the money from the sale of their parents’ house so that she could afford a home for the two of them. She’d bought the house, and then two months after they’d moved in Chloe had fallen ill. Hannah had gone to live with James instead, but had never really settled.
‘Look, Hannah’s okay for the moment.’
Okay for the moment. Most people had learned to settle for that where Hannah was concerned, but Chloe wanted more for her sister.
‘You do know that Hannah’s still only eighteen? And that Amy’s father isn’t on the scene?’ Hannah had run away two weeks before her sixteenth birthday. Chloe had been too ill to do anything but worry, while James had moved heaven and earth to find their sister. When he had, she’d been living with a boy of nineteen, who had been more than eager to give her up when James had wondered aloud whether Hannah’s queasy spells might be morning sickness.
‘Yes, I know. She’s all right.’ It seemed that Chloe was going to have to take his word for it, because Jon’s face showed no evidence that he really understood the gravity of the situation. His whole attention was focussed on Amy.
‘I’d just feel a bit better if she were here and I could see for myself.’ Her words sounded rather more accusing than Chloe had meant them to.
‘I felt that Amy needed to be looked at sooner rather than later, and that was my first priority. Hannah calmed down when she saw I was taking her concerns seriously and promised to stay put while I was gone.’
‘Yes… I’m sorry. Thanks.’ None of this was Jon’s fault. Hannah had put him in a difficult position and he’d taken the only decision he could. Chloe stretched her arms out towards Amy. ‘I’ll take her now.’
He didn’t move. ‘Why don’t you let me examine her? I can do it now—my shift won’t be starting for another three hours.’
‘And you’re better qualified than me?’ There was something he wasn’t saying, and Chloe guessed it might be that. It was true, after all. Jon’s speciality was paediatric emergencies, and even though he’d only been here a couple of weeks he was already gaining something of a reputation as an excellent doctor.
‘Yes, I am. And I’m not Amy’s aunt.’ He said the words dispassionately. ‘I dare say you’re a lot better at dealing with Hannah than I am. Why don’t you give her a call, while I fetch my stethoscope?’
Maybe he was just giving her something to do to keep her quiet, because it seemed that he had already come to some kind of agreement with Hannah. But he was right. Chloe nodded and Jon delivered Amy into her arms.
‘She’s two years old. All of her immunisations are up to date and she’s on no medication.’ If she was going to take up the role of concerned aunt then she may as well give Jon all the relevant information. And ask the relevant questions. ‘What do you think?’
‘I don’t know anything for sure yet.’ He got to his feet and walked out of the room, without looking back.