Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Ready to Party?

The answer to that, is ‘Yes, we are!’

One of the highlights of the year for the UK authors is the Harlequin Mills and Boon party.  We’ll let our photographs of the evening speak for themselves!

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Coffee before the party! L-R Kate Hardy, Ellie Darkins, Liz Fielding, Annie Claydon and Caroline Anderson

 

Caroline Anderson celebrated her 100th book!

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Caroline with Senior Editor Sheila Hodgson

 

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Caroline Anderson

 

Annie Claydon, showing off her 25th book pin, and with Editor Charlotte Ellis

 

 

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Kate Hardy and Carol Marinelli

 

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Scarlet Wilson with Editor Carly Byrne

 

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Annie O’Neil and Caroline Anderson

 

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Kate Hardy, Caroline Anderson and Liz Fielding

 

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Editors Nic Caws and Charlotte Ellis (and in the background, the wonderful view across the centre of London)

 

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Kate Hardy and Senior Editor Sheila Hodgson

 

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Annie O’Neil, Sophie Pembroke, Editor Megan Haslam and Managing Editor Lucy Gough

 

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Caroline Anderson and Senior Editor Sheila Hodgson

 

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Annie O’Neil, Caroline Anderson and Scarlet Wilson

 

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Editors Flo Nicoll and Megan Haslam, Managing Editor Lucy Gough and Editor Charlotte Ellis (Photo-bombing courtesy of Annie O’Neil!)

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt – from Heartache to Forever, by Caroline Anderson

We’ve got a slightly longer excerpt today – but when you reach the end of Caroline’s first chapter we think you’ll see why.  Have your hankies at the ready, ladies!  From Heartache to Forever is published in September.

41mP7wk-SyL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_CHAPTER ONE

‘Ah, Beth, just the person. I’ve got a favour to ask you.’

Her heart sank. Again?

‘How did I know that was coming, right at the end of my shift?’

She turned towards James with a wry smile and then everything ground to a halt, because the man standing beside the ED’s clinical lead was painfully, gut-wrenchingly familiar.

His strangely piercing ice blue eyes locked on hers, his mouth opening as if to speak, but James was still talking, oblivious to the tension running between them.

‘Beth, this is Ryan McKenna, our new locum consultant. Ryan, this is—’

‘Hello, Beth.’

Her name was a gentle murmur, his eyes softening as he took a step forward and gathered her up against his chest in a hug so warm, so welcome that it brought tears to her eyes.

‘Oh, Ry—’

He let her go long before she was ready, stared down into her eyes and feathered a kiss on her cheek.

‘OK. So I’m guessing you two know each other already, or this is love at first sight,’ James said drily, and Ryan laughed a little off kilter, taking a step back and giving her some much-needed space to drag herself together.

‘Yeah, we know each other,’ Ryan said, his voice oddly gruff. ‘We—er—we worked together, before I went abroad. Best scrub nurse I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.’

There was a whole world left unsaid, but James just nodded, still unaware of the turmoil going on under his nose.

‘Well, it’s good to know you got on, we rely on team work. Beth, I was going to ask you if you could be a star and give Ryan the once-over of the department and then take him for a coffee? They really need me in Resus, and I’m sure you’d like to catch up?’

‘What, now?’ she asked, feeling a flicker of something that could have been panic.

‘If you can spare the time. I’d be really grateful and they do need me.’

She met Ryan’s eyes, one eyebrow raised a fraction. ‘Are you OK with this?’ he murmured.

As if James had left her with a choice…

‘It’s fine, Ry. I don’t have to be anywhere,’ she said quietly, surrendering to the inevitable, and she turned back to James. ‘Go. You’re right, they could really use you. Sam’s tearing his hair out and Livvy’s rushed off her feet. We’ll be fine.’

He nodded, his face relieved. ‘Thanks, Beth. You’re a star. And while you’re at it, if you could convince him to apply for the permanent post, you’ll have my undying gratitude.’

Her heart thudded, the flicker threatening to turn into a full-on panic attack.

‘I thought the application window was closed?’

‘It’s been extended. So—if you could twist his arm?’

He was smiling, but his meaning was clear, and they were desperate for another consultant, but simply seeing Ryan again had sent her emotions into freefall and her hard-won status quo felt suddenly threatened. A locum post was one thing, but she didn’t know if she could cope with him here on a permanent basis, not when she was finally putting her life and her heart back together after the last two agonising years.

Not that it, or she, would ever be the same again…

Anyway, it wasn’t relevant, because he was committed to Medicine For All, the aid organisation he’d been working with for the past two years, and she knew how strongly he felt about that. He’d walked away from Katie because she didn’t understand, so there was no way he’d be looking for a permanent job and he obviously hadn’t been clear enough with James.

‘Leave it with me,’ she said, which wasn’t a yes but it was the best she could do, because she was oddly torn between wanting to run away and wanting to talk to him, to find out how he was.

Because something had changed him, she could see that at a glance. He was thinner, his face slightly drawn, shadows lurking in the back of his eyes. The same shadows that lurked in hers after all that had happened between them? Or other shadows, from the things he’d seen in those two years? Both, probably.

‘Sure?’ James asked, maybe finally picking up on the tension running between them, and she nodded.

‘I’m sure. Go. Leave it to me.’

‘Thank you. I know you’ll do your best. I’ll see you on Monday, Ryan. I’m really pleased you’ve agreed to join us.’

‘So am I. I’ll look forward to working with you.’

They shook hands and she watched James go, then Ryan turned back to her with a wry smile that touched her heart.

‘Forget the guided tour. Is there somewhere quiet we can go and get a coffee?’

She felt a wave of relief and nodded. ‘Yes. There’s a café that opens onto the park. We can sit outside.’

The café was busy, but they found a little bistro table bathed in April sunshine and tucked out of the way so they could talk without being overheard, and he settled opposite her and met her eyes, his searching.

‘So, how are you?’

Her heart thumped. ‘Oh—you know.’ She tried to smile. ‘Getting there, bit by bit. You?’

That wry, sad smile again, flickering for an instant and then gone. ‘I’m OK.’

She wasn’t sure she believed him, but there was something else…

‘So, how come you’re here, in Yoxburgh? Is that deliberate?’ she asked, needing to know if he’d sought her out or just stumbled on her by accident, but he nodded slowly.

‘Yoxburgh? Yes, sort of. I needed a job, there was one here, and I know it’s a lovely place. But I didn’t know you were here, if that’s what you’re asking, not until I saw you.’

‘Would you have applied if you’d known?’

He shrugged. ‘Not without talking to you first to see if you were OK with it.’

‘Why? If you needed a job—’

‘There are plenty of jobs.’

‘But not here.’

‘No. Not here, and I wanted to be here, but now—well, that depends.’

Her heart hiccupped. ‘On?’

‘You, of course. If you’re working in the ED, we’ll probably be working together. I’m OK with that, we worked well together before, but us—you and me—that’s different. Much more complicated, and the last thing I want is to make things difficult for you, so I need to know if you’re going to be OK with me being underfoot all the time?’

Was she?

‘Just so long as you don’t expect to pick up where we left off. Well, not that, obviously, but—you know. Before…’

He frowned, his eyes raw. ‘I don’t expect anything, Beth. The way we left things, I’ve got no right to expect anything. For all I know you might be back with Rick.’

‘Rick?’ It startled a laugh out of her because after everything that had happened Rick was so far off her radar it was almost funny. ‘No way. He was a lying cheat, why would I be back with him, any more than you’d be back with Katie?’

He gave a startled laugh. ‘OK, I can see that, but—someone?’

‘No. It’s just me, and I’m happy that way. You?’

He laughed again. ‘Me? I haven’t had time to breathe, never mind get involved with anyone. Anyway, people get expectations and then it all gets messy.’

‘Not everyone’s like Katie.’

‘No. They’re not.’ He studied her, his eyes stroking tenderly over her face. She could almost feel their touch, but then he closed them and shook his head with a little laugh. ‘I can’t believe you’re in the ED. What brought that on? I thought Theatre was your life.’

‘You can talk. I thought surgery was yourlife.’

He shrugged. ‘People change. I was facing a lifetime of increasing specialisation, and I didn’t want to spend every day doing the same thing over and over again until I’d perfected it. I wanted a change, and MFA provided me with that, and over the course of my time with them I realised I like trauma work. I like the variety, the pace, but you…’

‘I wanted a change, too.’ Needed a change, because everywhere she’d looked there’d been reminders of what she’d lost, and she’d found working in Theatre with anyone but him just plain wrong. ‘So, when did you get back?’

‘Two weeks ago. I’ve been back a few times on leave, picked up a bit of locum work here and there to refill the coffers and keep my registration up to date, but this time it’s for good.’

For good?

She felt her eyes widen, and her heart thumped. ‘Really?’

His smile was sad. ‘Yes, really. I’ve seen enough horror, lost some good friends, seen way too many dead chil—’

She flinched, and he gave a quiet groan.

‘Sorry. I didn’t…’

‘It’s OK,’ she lied. ‘And I can only begin to imagine what it must have been like. So, was it after you lost your friends you decided to come back?’

He gave a wry laugh. ‘No. Oddly, that was when I decided to stay on longer, to carry on the work they were doing because it was so necessary, but there’ll always be others waiting to take my place and it was time to come home because I’m just as needed here in many ways. My grandparents are frail and my mother’s shouldering the whole burden on her own, and it just seemed like it was time. Time to move on with my life, to get back to the day job, as it were. Back to the future.’

With her?

He’d said it was time to move on with his life, but he was the one who didn’t do relationships. Not after Katie had tried to get pregnant to stop him going away.

But what if he’d changed now, got MFA out of his system and was ready to settle down? It sounded like it, and maybe he wanted to try again with her? Maybe a bit more seriously this time—although it could hardly have been more serious than the way it had turned out. But if he did?

She wasn’t sure she was ready for that, not yet. She was still working through life day by day, hour by hour, step by step. She stared down into her coffee, stirring the froth mindlessly.

‘So that’s me,’ he murmured. ‘How about you? Are you happy here, in Yoxburgh?’

Happy? She could hardly remember what that felt like.

‘As happy as I can be anywhere,’ she said honestly. ‘It’s a lovely place, and that weekend we spent here—it was really special, the walks, the feel of the sea air—we said then what an amazing place it would be to live, and then a job came up here and I thought, why not? I was sick of working in an inner city, the noise and the dirt and the chaos, and I wanted to get away from all the reminders. I just needed peace.’

Peace to heal, to reconcile herself, to learn to live again, and where better than here, where it all began—

She sucked in a breath and looked up again. ‘So how come you applied for the locum job?’

He shrugged. ‘Same reason, I guess. I loved it here, the peace, the tranquillity of the coast and the countryside, and I needed that, after all I’ve seen. And there were the memories. I know we were only here for a weekend, but it was hugely significant.’

He looked away, his brow creased in a thoughtful frown, then he looked back and met her eyes. ‘If I’d known you were pregnant, Beth, I wouldn’t have gone away—not then, at least. I would have found a way out of it, delayed it or something. Not that it would have changed anything, but at least I could have been there for you. And I did try when I knew, but you didn’t seem to want me there, and I couldn’t really do anything anyway, nothing constructive, so I left and I tried to airbrush you out of my life, out of my thoughts, but I couldn’t. I realised that, the moment I got back when all I could think about was seeing you again, making sure you were all right.’

He’d tried to airbrush her out of his thoughts? And failed? Well, that made two of them. Even so…

‘Why didn’t you act on it? You’ve been back two weeks and you haven’t contacted me.’

‘You’ve changed your phone number.’

She felt a twinge of guilt. ‘I know. I’m sorry, I suppose I should have told you. But you could have found me if you’d really wanted to. You know enough people.’

He nodded. ‘You’re right, and I was going to as soon as I knew what I was doing, where I was going to be, but whatever, I’ve found you now, I’m here, I’m back for good, and at least I know you’re all right. Well, as all right as you can be, I guess.’

Their eyes locked, his heavy with understanding, and she felt her heart quiver.

‘I’ve missed you,’ she said, the admission wrung from her without her consent, and he smiled sadly.

‘I’ve missed you, too. I didn’t realise how much, until I saw you again. All that airbrushing just didn’t work.’

Her eyes welled, and she blinked the tears away.

‘Ry, I’m not the person I was. I’ve changed.’

‘I’m sure you have. So have I. Don’t worry, I don’t expect anything, Beth, but it is good to see you again and I’m so sorry I let you down. I wish I could undo it.’

She nodded, looking away from those all-seeing eyes, turning her attention back to the froth on her coffee. She poked the last bit of froth with the spoon, then looked up again.

‘So if you really are done with MFA, are you going for the permanent post? James was groaning the other day about the calibre of the applicants so they’ve obviously had to extend the closing date, and it sounds like he wants you to apply.’

He looked thoughtful. ‘That depends.’

‘On?’

‘You, again, of course.’ He shrugged again. ‘I don’t want to do something that you don’t want, Beth. If you don’t want me here, I won’t apply, especially since we’ll be working together. I know I’ve accepted the locum job, but if that’s an issue, too, I can always pull out. I haven’t signed anything yet.’

She frowned at him. ‘But you’ve said you’ll do it! You’d never go back on your word.’

‘I would if it would hurt you. The last thing I want is to hurt you again.’

She shook her head. ‘You didn’t hurt me, not like Rick hurt me. You didn’t lie and cheat and sleep with my best friend and then pretend it was over when it wasn’t. Your only failing was your commitment to Medicine For All, but I got that. I understood, and I admired you for it.’

‘Katie didn’t.’

‘I know, but I’m not Katie, and you’re not Rick, and you’ve never hurt me. And you were there for me when it mattered, and you stayed until it was over. That meant so much.’

‘I could have stayed longer. Shouldhave stayed longer.’

‘No. I didn’t want you to, Ryan. You needed to go back, to fulfil your commitments, and I needed to be on my own. You were right, you couldn’t do anything constructive to help me, and there were people in other parts of the world who really did need you. Don’t feel guilty.’

‘But I do.’

‘Well, don’t. I don’t need your guilt, I’ve got enough burdens. You did the right thing.’

She straightened up and smiled at him, pushing back the shadows. ‘Why don’t I give you that guided tour James was talking about, and introduce you to some of the others? And then you can decide if you want to apply.’

‘You don’t mind? I might get it. You have to be sure.’

She shrugged. ‘Ryan, we’re in desperate need of another consultant and I can’t stand in the way of that, but I can’t promise you a future with me, not in any way, so if you’re thinking of applying because of that—’

‘I’m not. I’ve told you, I don’t expect anything from you.’

‘Good. Let’s go and do this, then.’

*

The department was much as expected—modern, well equipped, but ridiculously busy, and he could see why he was needed.

And they had a permanent post going. It would be a great job, a perfect place to settle down—with Beth?

No. She’d warned him off, said she’d changed, and so had he, and yet he’d still felt his heart slam against his chest at the sight of her, felt a surge of something utterly unexpected when he’d pulled her into his arms and hugged her.

Love?

Of course not. He didn’t do love, not any more, and anyway, it wouldn’t work. She wanted other things from life, things he didn’t want, things that didn’t include him, but they could still be friends. They could work on that, and it was still a great hospital in a beautiful part of England. What more could a man want? And anyway, it was only a temporary post at the moment. It wasn’t like he was committed. If they couldn’t work together, he could always leave it at that and move on.

‘Seen enough?’

He met her soft grey-green eyes, so bad at hiding her feelings, and he could tell she wanted to get away.

‘Yes. Thank you, Beth. I need to get on, anyway, I’ve got to find somewhere to live by Monday. Any idea who to ask?’

‘Hang on, Livvy Henderson might know.’ She stuck her head back into Resus. ‘Livvy, do you know if anyone’s moved into the house you were renting? Ryan’s looking for somewhere.’

‘Ah, no, Ben’s got a new tenant.’ She flashed him a smile. ‘Sorry I can’t help. I hope you find something, Ryan.’

‘I’m sure I will. Never mind. Thanks.’ He turned back to Beth. ‘So—any other ideas?’

‘Baldwins? They’ve got a few properties near me advertised to let. Might be worth asking them. They’ve got an office on the High Street. It depends what you want.’

He laughed, thinking of some of the places he’d slept in over the past two years, and shook his head. ‘I’m not fussy. Just so long as it has a garden. I need to be able to get outside. And somewhere to park would be handy.’

‘Go and see them. I’m sure they’ll have something.’

He nodded. ‘I will. Thank you. I was thinking I’d check into a hotel and maybe look at some places tomorrow.’

Something flickered in her eyes and then was gone, as if she’d changed her mind. ‘Good idea,’ she said, but nothing more, and he wondered what she’d been going to say. Whatever, she’d thought better of it, and he realised he had some serious work to do to rebuild their friendship.

Baby steps, he thought, and then felt a stab of pain.

‘Right. Well, I’ll see you on Monday.’

The eyes flickered again, and he could see the moment she changed her mind. ‘Give me a call, tell me how you get on.’

‘I don’t have your number, remember.’ And nobody changed their number unless they wanted to hide, so from whom? Rick? Him? Or from the others, the well-meaning friends who hadn’t quite known what to say to her? He could understand that. He’d blocked quite a few numbers.

He pulled out his phone and found her entry. ‘OK, give it to me?’ Then he rang her, and heard her phone buzz in her pocket.

‘OK. I’ll let you know how I get on with—Baldwins?’

‘Yup. Good luck.’

*

Was it those words, or was it just that the fates had finished playing Russian roulette with him?

Whatever, the agent showed him a whole bunch of stuff, none of which appealed, and then said, very carefully, ‘There is something else. It was for sale but it didn’t shift, so the owner got tenants in and they’ve done a runner and left it in a state, but he’s disabled and can’t afford to pay someone to sort it out, so if you didn’t mind rolling up your sleeves I’m sure I could negotiate a discount. It’s a great place, or it could be. It’s a three-bed bungalow on Ferry Lane, overlooking the marshes and the harbour, and you can see the boats on the river in the distance.’

The river? He could feel his pulse pick up. ‘Does it have a drive?’

‘Oh, yes, and a double garage and a big garden. They had a dog so the house smells a bit, but with a good clean and a tidy-up…’

‘Can I see it?’ he asked, impatient now, because it sounded perfect, doggy or not, and he’d grown up with dogs.

The agent glanced at his watch. ‘I can’t take you today, I’m on my own here, and I’m out of the office until eleven tomorrow, but I can give you the key. I take it you’re trustworthy?’

Ryan laughed. ‘I think so. After all, what can I do to it that the tenants haven’t? Apart from clean it?’

‘Good point. Here. And take my card and give me a call.’

‘I will. Thanks.’

He hefted the key in his hand, slid it into his pocket and headed back to the car, cruising slowly along the clifftop before turning onto Ferry Lane and checking out the numbers. And there it was, a tired-looking bungalow set back at the top of a long concrete drive with weeds growing in the cracks.

Uninspiring, to say the least, and it didn’t get better as he went up the drive, but as he got out of the car he caught sight of the view and felt peace steal over him.

He slid the key into the lock, went through the front door and was confronted by multi-coloured chaos.

The agent was right, it did smell of dog, the kitchen and bathroom were filthy and the garden was a jungle, but every time he looked out of a window and saw the river in the distance his heart beat a little faster.

It might be awful now, but with a good scrub, the carpets cleaned and the grass cut, it would be transformed. Oh, and about a vat and a half of white paint to cover the lurid walls and calm it all down. All he had to do was roll up his sleeves and get stuck in.

He pulled out his phone and rang the agent.

‘I’ll take it,’ he said, and the man laughed.

‘I thought you might. Your eyes lit up when I mentioned the river.’

‘Yup.’ He laughed. ‘So, where do we go from here? It’s just that I am in quite a hurry, I start work on Monday. Is there any danger we can sort it by then?’

‘Yes, we can do it today. We’re open until seven tonight. If you come in at six, that’ll give me time to get it all sorted.’

So he rang Beth, although he hadn’t meant to, and told her about it.

‘Where is it?’

‘Just up Ferry Lane on the left. It’s number eleven.’

‘Are you still there?’

‘Yes—why?’

‘Can I come? I’m only round the corner and I have to see this.’

He laughed. ‘Sure. You’ll be shocked, it’s pretty dire, but I’ll get my bodyweight in cleaning materials and paint and it’ll be fine.’

‘It can’t be that bad.’

He just laughed again, and went outside to wait for her.

*

‘Oh, my word…’

‘Yeah. Great, isn’t it? You’ve got to love the shocking pink. But look.’

He wrapped her shoulders in his warm, firm hands and turned her gently towards the window, and she felt her breath catch. ‘Oh—you can see the river! It’s where we walked that day—’

The day he’d lifted her off the stile and into his arms and kissed her, and she’d fallen a little bit in love with him. The day it had all begun…

‘I know,’ he murmured, his voice a little gruff. ‘It’s beautiful down there, and the thought of having it on my doorstep, being able to look at it all the time, is just amazing.’ He dropped his hands and stepped away from her, but she could still feel the echo of his fingers, the warmth that had radiated off his body.

‘Come and see the rest. He said it’s got three bedrooms but I only got as far as the first one and gave up.’

She could see why. The place was dirty and untidy, as if the tenants had picked up their things and walked away without a backward glance, and there was a pervading odour of dog. There was a lot to do before it was a home.

They walked through it, examining all the rooms, finding the third bedroom at the opposite end to the other two, tucked away beyond the kitchen with a patio door to the garden. It even had an en suite shower room.

‘So will you make this your bedroom?’

He shook his head. ‘No. I’ll use it as a study because of the door to the garden. Do you know what, the house is actually in pretty good condition under all the dirt. I don’t think it’ll take a lot to turn it around.’

She eyed the grubby carpets, the faded curtains, the filthy bathroom. ‘If you say so.’

‘It’s only dirt. I’ll get on it in the morning. I’ve got to go down to the office now to sign something, then I need to eat and find a bed for the night. Any suggestions?’

Why? Why did she say it? She had no idea, but without her consent her mouth opened.

‘I’ve got a spare room, and a casserole in the slow cooker that’s enough for three meals so that should do us, so we can eat after you’ve done the paperwork and then come back here and make a start if you like? I’m on early tomorrow but I can help you now, and again after my shift. Bear in mind it’s Friday tomorrow, so you’ve only got three days before you start work and I guess you’ve got other stuff to do first. Like find some furniture, for starters.’

He laughed. ‘Furniture would be handy.’ His smile faded as he searched her eyes, his own unreadable. ‘Beth, are you sure? That’s a lot to ask.’

Sure? She wasn’t in the slightest bit sure, but it seemed the sensible thing to do, the most practical, and she was nothing if not practical.

‘I’m sure,’ she lied. ‘And anyway, you didn’t ask, I offered.’

She just hoped it wasn’t a huge mistake.

*

It was just as well she’d agreed to help, because the house was worse than he’d thought.

After they’d eaten he changed into jeans, rolled up his sleeves and they went straight back to tackle the mess, armed with the contents of her cleaning cupboard. She hit the kitchen while he tore up the bedroom carpets, and by the time he’d done that it looked a whole lot better. Then he studied the sitting room carpet.

Was it salvageable? Doubtful, but with a clean…

He turned back the corner to see what was underneath, and blinked. Seriously? An original wood block floor? He pulled back more, then more, and started to laugh because it was so unexpected and wonderful.

‘Hey, come and see this,’ he called, and Beth went into the sitting room, clad in shocking pink rubber gloves that matched the awful walls, a streak of dirt on her cheek, and his heart crashed against his ribs.

How could she look so sexy?

‘Wow! That’s amazing. It’s gorgeous!’

It wasn’t alone. He dragged his eyes off her, looking way more appealing than she had any right to look with dirt on her face and her hair all sweaty, and studied the floor. ‘Well, I don’t know about gorgeous, but it knocks spots off the carpet and it’ll save me money. I wonder if the hall’s the same?’

It was, so was the dining room, and he was stunned.

‘It’s incredible. I love it. I think you’re right, a bit of polish and it will be gorgeous. Right, let’s go. It’s late, you’re working tomorrow and I could kill for a cup of tea.’

‘Me, too. It might wash the dust out of my throat.’

He chuckled, and her eyes softened with her smile. Without thinking, he pulled her into his arms and hugged her, burying his face in her hair and breathing in dust and bleach and something else, something familiar that made his heart ache.

‘Thank you. Thank you so much for all you’ve done. You’ve been amazing and I wouldn’t have got nearly as far without you.’

She eased away, leaving him feeling a little awkward and a bit bereft. ‘Yeah, you would, because you wouldn’t have stopped. Right, time to go.’

*

‘Tea or coffee?’

‘Tea would be lovely, thank you. Want a hand?’

‘No, you’re fine. Go and relax, I won’t be long.’

Relax? He was too wired for that, and stiffening up nicely after all the heaving and bending. He was going to hurt in the morning. Ah, well. At least they’d made a start.

He flexed his shoulders and strolled over to the shelves in the corner of her sitting room beside the fireplace, where a silver trinket box had caught his eye. It was a heart, he discovered, smooth and rounded, incredibly simple but somehow beautiful, and crying out to be touched.

He picked it up, and it settled neatly into the palm of his hand as if it belonged there, the metal cool against his palm, the surface so smooth it felt like silk. There was something written on it, he realised, and he traced it with his fingertip, his heart starting to pound as he read the tiny inscription.

A date. A date he recognised, a date he could never forget because it was carved on his heart, too.

He heard her footsteps behind him.

‘Tea,’ she said, her voice sounding far away, the clink of the mugs as she put them down oddly loud in the silence. He turned slowly towards her, the heart still nestled in the palm of his hand.

‘What’s this?’ he asked gruffly, knowing the answer, and her smile nearly broke his heart.

‘Her ashes.’

Her face blurred, and he bent his head and lifted the tiny urn to his lips, his eyes squeezed tightly shut to trap the tears inside.

‘You kept them,’ he said, when he could speak.

‘Of course. I didn’t know what else to do. You weren’t there by the time I picked them up, and I didn’t want to stay where we were because of all the reminders and I knew if they were there I’d feel tied, so I had to keep her with me until we could decide together what to do.’

He looked up, blinking so he could see her face, and her smile cracked.

‘Oh, Beth…’

He reached out his free arm and pulled her against his side, and she laid her hand over the delicate little urn in his hand, her fingers curling round over his as she rested her head on his shoulder.

‘Grace didn’t suffer, Ry. At least we know that.’

He nodded, and she lifted the little heart gently out of his hand, kissed it and put it back on the shelf, next to a pretty cardboard box. She touched it fleetingly.

‘That’s her memory box,’ she said softly. ‘The midwives gave it to me in the hospital. Would you like to see it?’

He shook his head, mentally backing away from it, unable to face it. ‘No. Not tonight. I’m too tired, Beth. I think I might head up to bed. I’ve got another long day tomorrow and you’re working.’

Her smile was understanding, as if she’d seen straight through him.

‘When you’re ready,’ she said gently, but he’d spent two long years running away from it and he wasn’t sure he’d ever be ready for what he knew must be in that memory box.

Time to stop running? Maybe, but not now. Not tonight.

Not yet…

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt – Her Secret Miracle by Dianne Drake

We have a treat for you today – an excerpt from Dianne Drake’s new release, ‘Her Secret Miracle’.  Take it away, Dianne!

9781474090018

Bound by their miracle baby

Dr Michi Sato will never forget her passionate night with surgeon Eric Hart—especially as it resulted in her longed-for son. Now his heart condition means Michi must fly to New York for treatment…and tell guarded bachelor Eric he’s a father!

 

 

Chapter One

MICHI SATO LOOKED UP at the massive building, wondering how many stories high it was. She guessed somewhere between twenty-five and thirty, all belonging to Eric and, maybe someday, Riku?

She really hadn’t given Eric’s status much of a thought up until now, and simply seeing his name in gold looming over the massive bank of revolving glass doors caused her stomach to churn. Even as outgoing as she was, she wasn’t up to this. Finding herself so close to Eric now, after all this time, caused too many unanswered questions to come to mind.

Her motivation for that night, his motivation as well. Certainly nothing long term had been meant. They’d both made that clear during pillow talk and foreplay. Then look what had happened. Especially after her doctor had told her only weeks before it was an impossibility. That her condition had gone from bad to abandon all hope.

“I’m so glad he was wrong,” she said, kissing Riku on the cheek. “Mommy hasn’t done everything the best way she could have, but that’s all going to change now.” After Eric knew he had a son. After Riku’s surgery. There were so many things weighing her down now, so much guilt she had to come to terms with, she didn’t know where to begin. But she was here to start a new course. At least, that was what she kept telling herself. New course, new direction, new leaf turned over. It sounded good, but in practice…well, that was the part she wasn’t sure about. But the first step was behind her now, and that was good.

Of course, she’d told herself other things, too, that she’d backed away from, hadn’t she? Namely, not telling Eric he was daddy to her two-year-old. She’d tried, had made futile attempts at calling, texting and using any other means of electronic communication available. Then she’d given up. But that didn’t make things better. In fact, in the long run it would make things worse than she could probably even imagine.

“Mommy’s going to make it all better,” she said. How? She didn’t know. But she’d figure it out.

And now, on the second step of her journey—trying to figure out how to tell him—here she was, looking in Eric’s window, holding his son, and so confused her head was spinning. In just a few days Riku’s long-awaited surgery would take place—a surgery Eric should know about as it had been his specialty when he’d been a practicing surgeon.

Of course, that would have meant telling Eric somewhere along the way that he had a son, then also telling him his son had a heart defect. Neither of which she’d done. Yet. Except the yet part was looming like a black raincloud over her. All the good intentions in the world wouldn’t stop it from bursting and pouring down on her. It was up to her to make the plan that would avoid it—step into a doorway or, in this case, Eric’s office.

But, no. Instead, here she was, like a little girl with her nose to the toy-store window, hoping for the prettiest doll inside. Expecting to get it but fearing she wouldn’t. Expecting Eric to overlook that she’d kept his son from him all this time but fearing he would not forgive her. And in some fragmented way, hoping the three of them could become a family on some level. All while the black cloud was getting closer and closer to bursting.

“Be glad you’re too young to know about responsibilities,” she said to Riku, turning so her body would shield his from the slight gust of warm wind whipping up the streets and down the alleys. “Or how to make something right you’ve already made such a mess of.”

Realistically, she wasn’t counting on things turning out well as far as Eric was concerned. Sure, he could walk away from the entire situation, which didn’t seem at all like the man she’d known for little more than a night. Or he might recognize Riku as his son, then want more of Riku in his life than she was prepared to give him. And that seemed the greater possibility. But would he go so far as try for full custody since she’d hidden his sick child from him for two years? Or argue that she was negligent given how he was an expert in the procedure his son needed to have done?

This was what scared her. And why Eric scared her. He might want more of Riku than she could bear to give up. Now, she feared, she was about to find out just how much, and she wasn’t sure what she’d do once she knew. Wasn’t ready for that, wasn’t ready to face the consequences she’d set into motion, whatever they might be.

Still, she had always to remember this was about Riku, not her. Not even Eric. Right now, her son was the only one who counted, and when she did tell Eric about him, she hoped he would be able to see that was the case. At least until after Riku’s surgery.

“Your daddy’s inside that building, Riku,” she said, turning again so the boy bundled in her arms could look through the window. “He’s a very nice man. And kind. A perfect man to be your father. I know you don’t understand what I’m telling you, but you will someday.”

And she prayed he didn’t hate her when he did understand, even when she’d finally gathered the courage to correct her mistakes long before Riku would be old enough to hate her for what she’d done.

That was another fear she had to live with: the possibility that Riku could turn away from her once he was old enough to know what his mother had done. If that day ever came, well…she wouldn’t think about it. The way she hadn’t thought about other consequences.

So, true to form, she wasn’t going to deal with that now, when she was so confused, so angry at herself, and so afraid for her son’s life. Especially not when every ounce of everything inside her was devoted to Riku and what was ahead for him.

“I wish you could tell me what to do,” she told Riku, snuggling him in even closer to her. “Your mommy didn’t make some wise choices and now she’s very discouraged that what she’s done might touch you in ways I never intended to happen.”

Riku’s response was to reach up and grab Michi’s hair, then giggle.

“Do you know how cute you are?” she asked, trying to extricate herself from his playful grip. This child was her world, nothing else mattered. And it still surprised her how much she’d changed in such a short time. “OK, so you’re not going to answer me. But take my word for it, you’re the cutest little boy ever.”

It was a mild November day, the sun was bright, the slight gusts of wind warm enough that people had taken off their jackets to enjoy the unexpected rise in temperature. But Michi tucked Riku’s little fist into the blanket in which he was wrapped. So maybe she was overprotective. What of it? She’d had so much difficulty bringing him into this world.

She’d lost count of how many times she’d almost lost him before his birth; didn’t know how long she’d been hospitalized to prevent a miscarriage early on and a stillbirth later. It had been such a struggle, then afterwards a beautiful baby boy…with a heart defect. All of it had been so much to deal with, the hysterectomy after Riku’s birth being the least of her concerns. That mess with the social worker calling her unfit had been traumatic. So, if she wanted to be overprotective, she had good cause.

In her defense, she’d tried contacting Eric early on, but the information on him from the seminar had been old, and she’d refused to ask her aunt to forward information on to him as that would have revealed her pregnancy long before she’d wanted to. So, she’d put it off. Had promised herself she’d do it later. But later had brought her pregnancy difficulties, then a sick baby, outside complications…too many “laters” had added up until she’d known she’d passed the point of reasonability. All that, plus she simply hadn’t been coping. One step at a time. That was all she had been able to manage. One difficult, often heartbreaking step at a time.

Still, she had always intended to find Eric at some point, maybe when Riku was through the worst of it. Or maybe when she wasn’t so consumed by guilt and confusion and strange emotions she couldn’t even identify.

Even with all the mistakes she’d made, though, look what she had. The world. Riku was the whole world to her. And now, as she hugged him and stood looking into the Hart building, the urgency to make this right was pounding at her. “He’s in there somewhere,” she said, hoping yet not hoping to catch a glimpse of Eric. “Anyway, it’s silly standing out here, not sure what I’d do if I did see him,” she said to her son. “Besides, look who’s here.”

She twisted so Riku could see his great-aunt walking with outstretched arms to greet them. Riku stretched his arms out to her as well.

“Just what we need,” Agnes Blaine said. “A whole afternoon to spoil my nephew.”

Michi laughed. “Not too much spoiling, I hope.”

Takumi, Agnes’s partner of twenty-five years and Michi’s uncle, stepped to Agnes’s side. “That would be between Riku and us.” He bent over and kissed his nephew. “And maybe the clerk in the toy store.”

Michi loved these people. They’d been there for her at the end of her pregnancy, then through some of Riku’s early tests. And they were part of the small circle of family she’d trusted enough to let them care for Riku for a few hours, or even a full day.

“The amount of spoiling we bestow upon our nephew is a personal matter,” Agnes teased, looking up at the gold embossing over the building: Eric Hart Property Management. “You haven’t…?”

Michi shook her head, then stepped back. Agnes and Takumi knew to leave it alone. Her whole family did. Yes, everybody knew Eric Hart was Riku’s father, but it was not a topic anyone ever discussed. At least, not in front of Michi. “He’s just up from his nap, so he should be good for a while. And I shouldn’t be gone long.” Just long enough to spend some time alone, to think.

“We’ll be back home when you get there,” Takumi said, pulling Michi into his arms. “Be patient with yourself,” he said. “Everything will be as it’s meant to be.”

And, in the blink of an eye, she was alone on the sidewalk in front of Eric’s building. It was the first step. And her second step would take her inside.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

First and Last – A celebration of Harlequin’s 70 years in publishing!

This year marks the 70th year in publishing for Harlequin – if you haven’t seen the celebration posts on the Harlequin blog yet, here’s the link.  For cover lovers everywhere, check out their Cover Art Retrospective.

And what better way to help celebrate than with our own covers.  We’ve all seen them change over the years and we’ve gathered a few firsts together from our Medical Romance authors, along with some later releases to compare them with.

Emily Forbes:  A first cover from 2004 (time flies!), and Emily’s latest release.  Aren’t they beautiful!

 

Susan Carlisle:  Susan’s first and most recent covers are very different but both tug at the heartstrings.

 

Two firsts from Lynne Marshall and Annie O’Neil.  Who can resist Lynne’s gorgeous Dad and Baby, and Annie’s wonderful snow kiss?

 

Annie Claydon:  The couple featured in Annie’s first cover made a welcome reappearance in her 9th, but the covers are very different!

 

Amy Ruttan:  Two more similar images, but very different covers!  Which do you like best?

 

Traci Douglass:  Traci’s first and most recent covers show subtle changes in design, but it’s difficult to stop looking at either of them.

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Celebrating Caroline Anderson’s 100th book – ‘A Single Dad to Heal her Heart’

Well, it’s finally here, the publication of my 100thbook!!!! And for anyone who knows my books and has been loyal enough to read them for the last 28 years, there’s a little surprise in store, because my heroine, Livvy, is the daughter of my first hero and heroine in Relative Ethics, Oliver and Bron Henderson, and she’s amazingly old enough to be a doctor in her own right! 

I’ve been a bit mean, in the way of these things, and played God by giving both Livvy and Matt a lot to deal with, but Matt’s two little children bring a little sweetness and light into the story, and Amber, his daughter, is quite the matchmaker and a real little heartbreaker in the making.  Will I still be writing when she has her own story?  Who knows!

Here’s a little taster for you.  If you enjoy it, I’d love to know!  

CHAPTER ONE

‘Wow, look at that glorious view!’

         Stifling her impatience, Livvy glanced back across the scree slope to the valley floor stretched out below them, the late spring grass a splash of vivid green.  In the distance Buttermere lay like a gleaming mirror, the bleak slate hills behind it rich purple in the sun.

         And between her and the view – admittedly glorious – was Matt, dawdling his way up the winding, rocky path and driving her nuts because it was the last day of their team-building exercise in Cumbria and there was a trophy at stake.

         They’d been there since Friday, four teams all in some way connected to the Emergency Department of Yoxburgh Park Hospital; Sam and Vicky from the ED, Dan and Lucy from Orthopaedics, and Ed and Beth from Paediatrics, which had left her and Matt as the Trauma team.  

         She’d only started at the hospital a few weeks ago and she’d met him a few times fleetingly when he’d come down to the ED, but ever since they’d arrived at the lodge and sat down together to decide who would be in each team, she and Matt had seemed a natural fit.   

         ‘Are you OK with that?’ she’d asked at the time, and he’d nodded, his grin a little cheeky.

         ‘Yeah, suits me.  You’re small enough that I can pick you up if you dawdle.’

         ‘I don’t dawdle, and you’d better not!’

         ‘Don’t worry, Livvy, I think I can just about keep up with you,’ he’d said drily, and he had, seemingly effortlessly.  They’d tackled all manner of challenges, and he’d been witty, mischievous, not above cheating and game for anything Sam threw at them.

         Until now.  Now, with everything to play for, he was stopping to admire the view?  

         Yes, it was beautiful, and if they had time she’d stop and drink it in, but they didn’t because so far the four teams were neck and neck, so the first to the summit of Haystacks would take the crown.  And Matt was trailing.  

         Deliberately?

         ‘Are you dawdling on purpose or just studying my backside?’ she asked, hands on hips and her head cocked to one side, and he stopped just below her, a smile playing around that really rather gorgeous mouth that she was itching to kiss.  

         He took a step closer, curling his hands around her hips and sending shivers of something interesting through her.  They were standing eye to eye, and his mouth was so close now…

         His smile widened, crows’ feet bracketing those laughing eyes the colour of the slate that surrounded them, and he shook his head slowly from side to side.  

         ‘Cute though it is, and it has been worth watching, I’ll admit, I was actually studying the scenery then.’  The smile faded, replaced by awe.  ‘Stop and look around you, Livvy, just for a moment. It’s so beautiful and you’re missing it – and anyway, it’s only supposed to be fun!’

         She sighed, knowing he was right, but still impatient.  ‘I know, but we can’t let Sam catch us now, we’ll never hear the end of it.  We can look on the way back when we’ve won.’

         He shook his head again and laughed. ‘You’re so competitive.  Just be careful, that edge is unstable.  Why don’t you let me go first?’

         She laughed at him and took a step backwards out of reach.  ‘What, to slow me down?  No way. And besides, I’m always careful,’ she threw over her shoulder as she turned, and then she took another step and the ground vanished beneath her feet…

‘Livvy-!’

*

         He lunged for her, his fingers brushing her flailing arm, but she was gone before he could grab her, her scream slicing the air as she fell.  And then the scream stopped abruptly, leaving just a fading echo, and his blood ran cold. 

         She was below him, lying like a rag doll against a rock, crumpled and motionless, and for a moment he was frozen.   

         No. Please, God, no…

         ‘Livvy, I’m coming.  Hang on,’ he yelled, and scanned the slope, found a safe route that wouldn’t send more rocks showering down on her and scrambled down, half running, half sliding across the shale.  Fast, but not too fast.  Not so fast that he’d put himself in danger too, because that wouldn’t help either of them.

         As he got closer he could see her shoulders heaving, as if she was fighting for breath, and then as he got to her side she sucked in a small breath, rolled onto her back and started to pant jerkily, and his legs turned to jelly.  

         She was breathing.  Not well, but she wasn’t dead…

         He took her hand and gripped it gently.  ‘It’s OK, Livvy, I’m here, I’ve got you. You’re OK now.  Just keep breathing, nice and slow.  That’s it.  Well done.’

         Her eyes locked on his, and after a moment her breathing steadied, and he felt his shoulders drop with relief.

         ‘What – happened?  Can’t – breathe…’

         ‘Just take it steady, you’ll recover soon,’ he said, his voice calm, his heart still pounding and his mind running through all the things that might be damaged.  Starting with her head… ‘I think you’ve been winded.  Stay there a minute-‘

         ‘Can’t.  I need to sit up.’

         He gritted his teeth.  ‘OK, but don’t do it if you think you’ve got any other injuries.’

         ‘No.  Haven’t,’ she said, and she struggled up into a sitting position and propped herself against the rock that had stopped her fall.

         ‘Ah-!’ 

         ‘OK?’

         She nodded, shifting slightly, her breathing slowing, and she closed her eyes briefly.

         ‘Yeah.  That’s better.  The path just – went.’

         So she remembered that, at least.  ‘“I’m always careful”,’ he quoted drily, and she laughed weakly as relief kicked in.  

         ‘Well, nobody’s – perfect,’ she said after a moment, and then her eyes welled and he reached out a hand and brushed the soft blonde hair back from her face with fingers that weren’t quite steady, scanning her face for bruises.  

         ‘Are you OK now?  You scared me half to death.’

         She met his eyes with a wry smile, and for once the sparkle in her eyes wasn’t mischief.  ‘That depends on your – definition of OK.  I’m alive, I can breathe – just, I can feel everything, I can move, so yeah – I guess I’m OK.  Do I hurt?  Oh, yeah. These rocks are hard.’

         ‘I’m sure.  Don’t move.  Let me check you over.’

         ‘You just want to get your hands on me,’ she quipped, her breath still catching

         ‘Yeah, right,’ he said lightly, trying not to think about that right now because however true it might be, he could see she was in pain.  He simply wanted to be sure she didn’t have any life-threatening injuries and then maybe his heart could slow down a bit.  ‘Why don’t you let me do my job?’ he added gently, trying to stick to business.

         ‘Yes, doctor.’

         ‘Well, at least you can remember that.  How many fingers am I holding up?’

         ‘Twelve.’

         He tried to glare at her but it was too hard so he just laughed, told her to cooperate and carried on, checking her pupils, making her follow his finger, feeling her scalp for any sign of a head injury.

         Please don’t have a head injury…

         ‘My head’s fine.  It’s my ribs that hurt.’

         So he turned his attention to her body, checking for anything that could be a worry because she’d hit that rock hard and a punctured lung could kill her.  He squeezed her ribcage gently.  

         ‘Does that feel OK?’

         ‘Sort of.  It’s tender, but it’s not catching anymore when I breathe and I can’t feel any grating when you spring them, so I don’t think I broke any ribs,’ she said, taking it seriously at last.  ‘I thought I had an elephant on my chest.  I had no idea being winded was so damn scary.’

         ‘Oh, yeah.  I’ve only ever been winded once, when I fell out of a tree.  I must have been six or seven, but I remember it very clearly.  I thought I was dying.’

         She nodded, then looked away again, just as they heard a slither of shale and Sam appeared at their sides.

         ‘How is she?’ he asked tightly.

         ‘Lippy and opinionated but apparently OK, as far as I’ve checked.  She was winded.  At least it shut her up for a moment.’

         Sam chuckled, but Matt could see the relief in his eyes.  ‘Now there’s a miracle.’

         ‘Excuse me, I am here, you know,’ she said, shifting into a better position, and Sam looked down at her and grinned.

         ‘So you are.  Good job, too, we don’t need to lose a promising young registrar, we’re pushed enough,’ he said drily, and sat down.  ‘Why don’t you shut up and let him finish so we can get on?’ he added, and Matt laughed.  As if…

         ‘Any back pain?’ he asked, but she just gave him a wry look.  

         ‘No more than you’d expect after rolling down a scree slope and slamming into a rock, but at least it stopped me rolling all the way down,’ she said, trying to get to her feet, but he put a hand on her shoulder and held her down.

         ‘I’m not done-’

         She tipped her head back and fixed him with a determined look.  ‘Yeah, you are.  I’m fine, Matt.  I just need to get up because there are rocks sticking into me all over the place and I could do without that. You might need to give me a hand up.’

         He held his hand out but let her do the work. She’d stop instinctively as soon as anything felt wrong, but he was horribly conscious that he hadn’t ruled out all manner of injuries that might be lurking silently, but that was fine, he had no intention of taking his eyes off her for the rest of the day.

         She winced slightly, but she was on her feet.

         ‘How’s that feel?’ 

         ‘Better now I’m off the rocks.  Did you see what happened?  Did I step off the edge, or did it crumble?’

         He snorted.  ‘No, it crumbled.  I told you the edge was unstable, but did you listen?  Of course not.  You were in too much of a hurry.  When you weren’t walking backwards, that is.’

         ‘Only one step-’

         ‘I’ll give you one step,’ he growled.  ‘So, are you OK to go on?’

         ‘Of course I am.  You seriously think I’m going to give up now just because of this?’

         ‘You might as well.  I don’t get beaten,’ Sam said, getting to his feet, and she laughed in his face.  

         ‘We’ll see about that,’ she retorted, stabbing him in the chest with her finger, then she took a step and yelped.

         Matt frowned. ‘What?’

         ‘My ankle.’  She tried again, and winced.  ‘Rats.  I can’t weight-bear on it.  I must have turned it when the path gave way.’

         ‘Well, that’s just upped my chances,’ Sam said with a grin, and Matt rolled his eyes.

           ‘You two are a nightmare.  Right, let’s get you off here and have a better look at that.’

*  

Livvy flexed her ankle again and regretted it.  She was so mad with herself, and she was hideously aware that it could have been much, much worse.  If it had been her head against that rock instead of her chest…

         After all she’d been through, that she could have died from a moment’s lack of concentration was ridiculous.  She’d meant what she’d said about being careful. She was always careful, meticulous with her lifestyle, fastidious about what she ate, how much she exercised – she woke every morning ready to tackle whatever the day brought, because whateverit brought she had at least been granted the chance to deal with it, and she never stopped being aware of that glorious gift.

         And now, after the physical and emotional rollercoaster of the last five years, she’d nearly thrown it all away.

         Stupid.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

         ‘OK?’

         She nodded, her teeth gritted, because her ankle was definitely not OK and the rest of her body wasn’t far behind.  She was going to have some stunning bruises to show for this.  What an idiot.

         They carried her carefully across the loose rock slope to where the others were waiting, clustering round her and looking concerned as they set her on her feet, and she felt silly and horribly embarrassed.

         And annoyed, because she’d been really looking forward to climbing up Haystacks and there was no way she was going up it now, and she couldn’t see how she could get down, either, so one way or another she was going to miss out on the climb and coincidentally cause the others a whole world of aggravation.

         Either that or just sit there and let them pick her up on the way back.

         Whatever, they’d be worried about her, Matt especially since he’d seen her fall, and she felt awful now for scaring him.  Scaring all of them, and putting a dampener on the whole trip.

         ‘Sorry, guys,’ she said humbly.  ‘That was really stupid.’

         ‘It was an accident, they happen,’ Dan said calmly, but Matt just snorted and turned away.  Because he was angry with her?  Maybe, and she felt like the sun had gone in.  

         ‘Want me to look at it?’   

         ‘It’s fine, Dan, it’s only a sprain and anyway I’m not taking my boot off.’

         ‘OK.  Just keep your weight off it.’

         ‘I can’t do anything else,’ she said in disgust, and lowered herself gingerly onto a handy rock.

         ‘So what now?’ Matt asked, still not looking at her.

         She followed the direction of his gaze and traced the rough path that seemed to wind endlessly down until it met the track that led to the car park.  Funny, it didn’t look so beautiful now.  It just looked a long, long way away.

         ‘We’ll carry her down,’ Sam said.

         ‘No, you won’t, you’ve got to finish the challenge!’ she protested, but Sam shrugged.  

         ‘Well, we can’t leave you here, Livvy.’

         ‘Yes, you can.  I’ll be fine.  I’m not ruining anyone’s day just because I was an idiot.  Please, all of you, go on up and I’ll wait here.  I might even work my way down.  If I take my time I’ll be fine.  I can go down on my bottom.’ 

         ‘No,’ Matt chipped in, turning round at last, his expression implacable.  ‘I’ll take you back.  Our team’s out, anyway.’

         ‘Are you sure?’ Sam asked him, but she shook her head, really unhappy now.

         ‘Matt, I can’t let you do that.  You were looking forward it!’

         He just smiled, his eyes softening at last. ‘It’ll keep.  It’s millions of years old, Livvy.  It’s not like it’s going anywhere.  I can climb it another time.’

         ‘But-‘

         His tone firmed.  ‘But nothing.   We’re team mates, and we stick together, and it’s what we’re doing.  End of.’         

         She rolled her eyes.  ‘Are you always this bossy?’

         ‘Absolutely.  Ed, can I borrow the car?’

         Ed nodded and delved in his pocket and tossed him the keys.  ‘Mind you don’t crash it.  Annie’ll kill us both.’

         ‘I’ll do my best,’ he said mildly.  ‘Go on, you guys, go and have your climb and I’ll take Livvy back and come and get you when you’re done.  Call me when you hit the track.

         ‘Will do – and no more stunts, Henderson, we need you in one piece!’ Sam said as they headed off, leaving her alone with Matt. 

*

He laughed and shook his head in disbelief.    

         ‘I can’t believe I’m so stupid.’

         She looked up at him, her face puzzled.  ‘You are?’

         ‘Yes, me.  I’ve spent the last three days trying to work out who you remind me of, and it’s just clicked.  You’re Oliver Henderson’s daughter, aren’t you?  It’s so blindingly obvious I can’t believe I didn’t see it.  You’re the spitting image of him.’

         ‘Do you know him?’

         He perched on a rock in front of her so she didn’t have to tilt her head.  ‘Yes, I was his registrar, years ago.  He’s a great guy.  I’m very fond of him, and your mother.  How are they both?’

         ‘Fine.  Doing really well.  He’s about to be sixty, but he doesn’t look it and he’s got no plans to retire and nor has Mum.’

         ‘I’m not surprised.  They’re very dedicated.’

         ‘They are.  Dad just loves surgery, and Mum would be bored to bits without the cut and thrust of ED, so I can’t see them retiring until they’re forced, frankly! So, when were you at the Audley Memorial?  I must have been at uni or I’d remember you, unless you’re much older than you look.’

         He chuckled.  ‘I’m thirty six now and I was twenty seven, so that’s – wow, nine years ago.’

         ‘So I must have been twenty, then, which explains it, because I didn’t come home a lot in those days.  I had a busy social life at uni, and it was a long way from Bristol to Suffolk.’

         ‘Yes, it is.  Give them my love when you speak to them.’

         ‘I will.  I’ll call them later today.’

         ‘So, how are we going to do this?’ he asked quietly, getting back to the core business, and she shrugged.  

         ‘I have no idea.  I can’t hop all the way down, but I can’t walk on it either, so it looks like the bottom shuffle thing.’

         ‘Or I can carry you,’ he suggested, knowing she’d argue.

         ‘How?  Don’t be ridiculous, it’s not necessary.  And anyway, I weigh too much.’

         He laughed at that, because she hardly came up to his chin and sure, she was strong, but she definitely wasn’t heavy, he knew that because he and Sam had already carried her to the path.  He got to his feet.

         ‘Come on, then, sling your arm round my neck and let’s see how we get on with assisted hopping.’

         Slowly, was the answer.  He had to stoop, of course, because she was too short to reach his shoulder otherwise, and after a while they had to change sides, but she said it hurt her ribs, which left only one option.

         He stopped and went down on one knee.

         ‘Are you proposing to me?’ she joked, and it was so unexpected he laughed.  Ish.

         ‘Very funny.  Get on my back.’

         ‘I can’t!’

         ‘Why?’

         ‘Because I’m not five and I’ll feel like an idiot!’

         He straightened up, unable to stifle the laugh. ‘You just fell off the path!’ he said, and she swatted him, half cross, half laughing, and he couldn’t help himself. He gathered her into his arms, hugged her very gently and brushed the hair away from her eyes as he smiled ruefully down at her.

         ‘I’m sorry.  That was mean.’

         ‘Yes, it was.  I feel silly enough without you laughing at me.’

         ‘Yeah, I know.  I’m sorry,’ he said again, and then because he’d been aching to do it for days and because she was just there, her face tipped up to his, her clear blue eyes rueful and apologetic and frustrated, he bent his head and touched his lips to hers.

         It was only meant to be fleeting, just a brush of his mouth against hers, but the tension that had been sizzling between them since they’d arrived on Friday morning suddenly escalated, and when her mouth softened under his he felt a surge of something he hadn’t felt for two years, something he thought he’d never feel again.

         Not lust.  It wasn’t lust.  That he would have understood.  Expected, even, after so long.  But this was tenderness, yearning, a deep ache for something more, something meaningful and fulfilling, something he’d lost, and it stopped him in his tracks.

 

‘A Single Dad to Heal her Heart’ is available now, from Mills and Boon UK, Mills and Boon Australia, Harlequin and Amazon. ‘Relative Ethics’ (Oliver and Bron Henderson’s story) is also available in e-book format from Mills and Boon UK and Amazon.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

We’d like to ask…

We always want to know what you think! And because this blog belongs to all of us, readers and writers alike, we’re always keen to hear what you have to say about its content. Our stats tell us that lots of people visit the blog, but which features appeal to you the most? We’d love it if you could spare a few moments to complete our survey.

The first question asks about the features that we include on the blog from time to time – the posts we publish in addition to our regular blog rota and the New Releases post at the beginning of each month. (We’re hoping that you want to pick all of them! But please pick up to three favourites if you can.) And a note of clarification – we’re not thinking of discontinuing any of these features because they’re all popular, but it would be nice to know which ones you like the best, so that we know which to expand in the future.

The second question is a chance for you to tell us a bit more if you’d like to – are there any new features or changes that you’d like to see? We can’t promise to put all of your suggestions into practise, but we will promise to consider all of them carefully, and to give as many as we can a test run.

And this is a good time to include some thank yous. A big round of applause goes to all of our regular and guest contributors to the blog – there are many people working away to keep the blog running and to give us regular new content. But the biggest thank you of all goes to you – our reader. We appreciate every single one of you. Always. A huge and heartfelt thank you!

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

We’re taking a break, but we’ll be back!

We’re taking a break from blogging over Christmas, but we’ll be back in the New Year!  Amy Andrews will be starting 2019 off in style, by bringing us news of the New Releases for January on Friday 4th January.

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We’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU, to everyone who’s contributed to the blog this year – and in particular our wonderful commentators and readers, who always make blogging fun.  Our statistics tell us that we’ve reached many people, living in all corners of the world, and we’re enormously grateful to everyone who takes the time to visit us.

And last but by no means least, on behalf of all the Medical Romance Authors – Happy Holidays!  We wish you all the joys of Christmas, and a peaceful, healthy and happy New Year.