Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases

April New Releases

Happy April! I know it doesn’t really feel like that now, the world is kind of a mess. I just want to take a moment to thank ALL the front line workers, doctors, nurses, RT’s, orderlies, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, anyone working the supply chains.

All essential workers, you’re amazing! ❤

At least one thing is a current constant and that’s new releases! Congrats to debut author Allie Kincheloe on your first release with Medicals!

Medical1   Awakening the Shy Nurse by Alison Roberts

One stolen kiss…

…and they’re both in deep water!

Sensible Annalise has always played it safe, but when she accepts a job as nurse aboard a cruise ship, her guard is instantly disarmed by the ship’s playboy doctor! She’s never felt so alive and liberated, but Hugh Patterson has no interest in putting down roots. Their fling may be temporary, but is falling for Hugh a complication she’s ready to embrace?

A Medics, Sisters, Brides novel

Medics, Sisters, Brides duet

Book 1 — Awakening the Shy Nurse
Book 2 — Saved by Their Miracle Baby

 

Medical2

 

Heart Surgeon’s Second Chance by Allie Kincheloe

Can they leave their past behind…

To save her son’s life?

When paramedic Rhiann Masters’s young son needs heart surgery, there’s only one man she can trust—former best friend and top pediatric surgeon Dr. Patrick Scott. The only problem? After a tragic accident changed Patrick’s life forever, they haven’t spoken in years. Now as they’re thrown back together, they soon remember just how good life can be when they’re by each other’s side…

 

Medical3

 

 Risking Her Heart on the Single Dad by Annie O’Neil

Dare she dream of a family…

…with a heartbroken single dad?

Kirri West is dedicated to helping women who can’t have children. A heartache she lives with every day. But as she joins Ty Sawyer’s groundbreaking clinic, the gorgeous surgeon and his little girl become the kind of distraction she’s long avoided! While they could be a perfect family, Ty and Kirri would have to lay their hearts on the line first…

A Miracles in the Making novel

Miracles in the Making duet

Book 1 — Risking Her Heart on the Single Dad
Book 2 — The Neonatal Doc’s Baby Surprise by Susan Carlisle

 

Medical4

Saved by their Miracle Baby by Alison Roberts

Friends to short-term lovers…

Could a miracle unite them forever?

Surgeon Noah only expected one night of abandon with physiotherapist Abby. But crossing the line of friendship ignited a hidden chemistry…leaving Abby pregnant and the once carefree Noah struck by memories of his painful past. But when his son’s premature arrival makes him a father sooner than expected, Noah must fight against the odds to become the man his family deserves…

A Medics, Sisters, Brides novel

Medics, Sisters, Brides duet

Book 1 — Awakening the Shy Nurse
Book 2 — Saved by Their Miracle Baby

 

Medical5

 

Tempted by the Single Mom by Caroline Anderson

New start, new life…

New family?

After a lifetime of putting others first, GP Nick Cooper is craving his fresh start in Yoxburgh—it’s time to discover what he wants. And that’s his beautiful new colleague, Ellie Kendal! But Ellie comes as a package deal, and as a devoted single mom of three, she’s nothing like anyone he’s ever met before! His head warns him to hold back, even though his heart already belongs to them all…

 

Medical6

 

 

The Neonatal Doc’s Baby Surprise by Susan Carlisle

From temporary fling…

…to baby bump!

Labor and delivery nurse Amanda is in Sydney for work, not to be distracted by “the baby whisperer”—neonatal specialist Dr. Lucius West. But Amanda loves a challenge—especially an intriguing, handsome one. Their fiery clashes in the OR soon turn into passion in the bedroom. But there are consequences to Amanda and Lucius’s insatiable desire…and they’ll have nine months to face them!

A Miracles in the Making novel

Miracles in the Making duet

Book 1 — Risking Her Heart on the Single Dad by Annie O’Neil
Book 2 — The Neonatal Doc’s Baby Surprise

 

 

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Amy xo

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt: Tempted by the Single Mum by Caroline Anderson

41mX8cT+AJL.jpgCHAPTER ONE

Why? Why today, when she was already running late before she’d even started, did someone have to make it even worse?

          She glared at the car reversing neatly into the one remaining doctors’ space—a car she didn’t recognise, and she’d never seen the driver, either. He certainly wasn’t one of their doctors, so whoever he was he had no business parking there.

          Didn’t seem to bother him. He either didn’t know, or didn’t care, but he flashed her a smile as he got out of the car, then locked it and headed for the surgery without a backward glance.

          Who did he think he was? Cocky, arrogant—argh! There weren’t words for what she felt. The expensive car, the confident stride, the easy charm—not to mention the insanely good looks. Clearly a man for whom everything had always gone his way. Well, not now. Whoever he was—probably a drug rep—he was about to get his comeuppance.

          Still fuming, she reversed into the last available space in the car park, not really wide enough but doable—or it would have been, if she hadn’t been so cross.

          She heard the scrape, closed her eyes and breathed, then shuffled the car slightly further from the offending wall, squeezed out of the ridiculously narrow gap she’d left herself, slammed the door and headed across the car park.

          Seriously, could today get any worse? Well, his could. If he was still in Reception—

          He was. He was chatting to the receptionist, leaning forward engagingly as he spoke, and that easy charm was obviously working on Katie, which just infuriated her more. His hands were shoved casually into the pockets of immaculately cut trousers that fitted his neat, strong hips to perfection. Of course they did. They wouldn’t dare do anything else.

          She eyed his shoulders, broad and yet not heavy, the legs strong and straight below firm, taut buttocks. He probably worked out in a fancy gym somewhere. You didn’t get a neat, sexy bottom like that by accident.

          She dragged her eyes up to head height.

          ‘You’ve parked in a doctor’s space,’ she said crisply to his back, keeping a lid on her temper with difficulty, and he straightened up and turned towards her, that infuriating smile still on his face.

          ‘Yes, I—’

          ‘I know parking’s tight, but that is just not on. There was another space, so why not park there yourself? Or anywhere else, frankly! Or was that the only space big enough for your ego? Thanks to you I’ve scraped my car, I’m now ten minutes late and I’ve got patients waiting!’

          An eyebrow rose a fraction. Over his shoulder she could see Katie gesturing wildly, but she ignored her and stood her ground, and he shook his head slowly.

          ‘Maybe you need to get up earlier,’ he murmured, and she stifled the urge to growl at him.

          ‘And maybe you need to learn to read!’

          ‘Ellie! Dr Kendal!’ Katie chipped in, getting to her feet and looking even more flustered, and his eyebrow went up a little further, a lazy smile now playing around his aggravatingly beautiful mouth.

          ‘I think we’d better start again,’ he said, holding out his hand, the smile tugging at his lips. ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dr Kendal. I’m Nick Cooper. Dr Nick Cooper.’

          The new—and desperately needed—member of their team.

          Brilliant.

          Why didn’t the ground just open up and swallow her?

*

He had to stifle his laugh.

          Her jaw sagged, and for a second she was speechless. Then she shook her head, mumbled what could have been an apology and fled through the staff door as Katie opened it, her face flaming.

          He dropped his hand back to his side, shrugged and smiled at the receptionist who was looking horrified and fascinated all at once.

          ‘So, that’s Dr Kendal,’ he murmured, vaguely intrigued.

          ‘Yes. Ellie. I’m so sorry, she’s normally lovely. I don’t know what’s got into her.’

          He pulled a face and walked through the door into the back of Reception, closing it behind himself. ‘I do. I took the last doctor’s space, and now she’s scraped her car. Oops. If I’d known who she was I would have moved, but I didn’t have a clue.’

          ‘She’s only part time, so if she wasn’t on duty when you came for your interviews you wouldn’t have met her—and she does normally walk. You weren’t to know.’

          He nodded. ‘No. Ah, well. I have no doubt we’ll have time to catch up later.’

          Katie gestured towards the other doorway, still looking flustered. ‘Come in and I’ll introduce you to the admin team, and I’m sure Dr Gallagher will be out in a minute to talk to you. I’ve let her know you’re here.’

          She led the way, and he followed her into the office and scanned it for any sign of his fiery new colleague, but she’d gone.

          Pity. Never mind. He was here all day, there was time, and he could look forward to what was bound to be an interesting conversation…

*

Why had she done that?

          Torn him to pieces without even giving him a chance to speak? And if he’d been a patient, he would have been well within his rights to complain. No, it was even better than that. He was a colleague, her senior, and she’d just hurled abuse at him in their first interaction.

          Marvellous. Just marvellous.

          Not that he’d been exactly polite himself, telling her to get up earlier. She’d been up before half five as it was to do the laundry, and if Maisie hadn’t been a diva and Evie hadn’t needed her nappy changed again and Oscar hadn’t lost one of his shoes and then had a meltdown, she wouldn’t have been late and then none of this would have happened.

          She felt her eyes prickle, and clamped her jaw shut hard, blinking furiously as she closed her consulting room door behind her and leant against it. It could have been worse. There could have been a whole bunch of patients in Reception, so at least she hadn’t had an audience while she’d made a total fool of herself.

          ‘Breathe,’ she said softly, and closed her eyes, sucking in a long, slow breath through her nose and out through her mouth. In…and out… In…and out—

          The quiet tap on the door made her jump, and she leapt away from it and wrenched it open, to find herself face to face with her worst nightmare, no doubt coming to tear her apart in private. Well, it was certainly justified, and he probably hated her already.

          Or maybe not…

          ‘Katie thought you’d want this,’ he said quietly, holding out a mug of tea without a trace of a smile, and she stared at it suspiciously.

          Beware of strangers bearing gifts…

          ‘Why are you bringing me a peace offering? I’m the one who should be apologising—or have you slipped something into it?’

          His mouth twitched. ‘Don’t tempt me,’ he murmured, and gave her a wry smile. ‘It’s not a peace offering. Katie was about to bring it to you, and I suggested I do it. I thought we could do with clearing the air.’

          She took it from him with fingers that weren’t quite steady, then made herself meet his eyes. He held her gaze, his searching, thoughtful, the smile gone now. She was quite glad she didn’t know what he was thinking…

          She felt her shoulders drop in defeat. ‘Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t know who you were, which is no excuse whatsoever, I know that, but—’ She broke off, still mortified and wondering if there was any way she could rescue the situation. ‘I hadn’t realised you were coming in today, I thought you’d be starting on Monday, so I wasn’t expecting you, I didn’t recognise you, and then you took the last reserved space, and as if that wasn’t enough I scraped my car parking by the wall, which was just the icing on the cake—’

          ‘Ellie, breathe! It’s OK. Forget it. You’re right, I am starting on Monday, I’m just having an induction today, learning the ropes a bit, finding my feet before I start. I guess nobody told you. And I’m sorry I took your parking place, but Lucy told me to park there because you usually walk to work. Obviously not today.’

          ‘No. I should have been, I nearly always do, but I got—held up,’ she said, for want of a better way of putting it.

          ‘So it seems. Parking’s tight, isn’t it? Lucy said it’s a regular occurrence with the building work going on.’

          She nodded, sighing with relief because he had every right to be unreasonable about this. ‘It is, but they should be finished soon and the builders’ vans will be gone, and not a moment too soon. Look, I’m sorry, can we do this later? I don’t mean to be rude—again—but I do have patients waiting and I’m already on the drag.’

          ‘Of course. And I’m sorry about the parking—and your car.’

          ‘Don’t be sorry. You had every right to park there, as it turns out, and I massively overreacted. And thank you for the tea. I haven’t had time for one today.’

          His eyes softened at the corners, that flickering smile sending strange little shivers through her body. ‘My pleasure,’ he murmured. ‘We’ll catch up later.’ His lips twitched again. ‘You can teach me to read, and I can teach you to tell the time.’

          She rolled her eyes. He might have forgiven her, but he clearly wasn’t going to let it drop.

          ‘Oh, I can tell the time,’ she told him wryly. ‘I was up at five twenty-seven, for what it’s worth.’

          A silent ah, and he backed out, fingers waggling. ‘Better not hold you up any more, then. I’ll see you later.’

          She nodded, and the door closed softly behind him.

          Shaking her head and wishing she could wind the clock back, she put the tea down, washed her hands and fired up her computer, her mind refusing to let go of that lazy, sexy, fleeting smile.

          Stupid. She was nearly twenty minutes late now, and it would have a knock-on effect on the rest of the day. She didn’t have time to daydream, and particularly not about a man who probably practised his smile in the mirror!

          ‘Get a grip, Ellie,’ she told herself, took a gulp of her tea and pressed the button to call her first patient.

*

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases

October New Releases!

Happy October! This year is just slipping by and we have some brand new releases, including some Christmas themed books to get you in that festive spirit!

BOOKOct1 A Mistletoe Kiss for the Single Dad by Traci Douglass

Second Chance…

…under the mistletoe!

GP Nick Marlowe returned to his hometown to focus on raising his young son. The last person he expects to see in Bayside is high-flying Beverly Hills surgeon Belle! The childhood sweetheart he let go so she could pursue her dream of attending medical school. Only working side-by-side to reopen her late aunt’s free Christmas Eve clinic their magical connection returns… Could a mistletoe kiss spark another chance—just in time for Christmas?

 

BOOKOct2

 

From Heartache to Forever by Caroline Anderson

Passion, pregnancy, heartbreak…

Can they find their happy-ever-after?

Fresh out of broken relationships, trauma specialist Ryan McKenna and nurse Beth Costello’s passion-fueled fling was a welcome escape. But the shock of an unexpected pregnancy and the heartache of losing the baby they never knew they wanted was too much to bear. Now, working together again in Yoxburgh, where they first made love, can they finally get to know each other…and discover they’re meant to be together?

 

BOOKOct3

 

His Surgeon Under the Southern Lights by Robin Gianna

The lone-wolf doc…

…meets his match!

In this Doctors Under the Stars story, only when exploring the Antarctic’s freezing waters can marine biologist Dr. Zeke Edwards forget the heartache of losing his family. Until an unexpected, passionate kiss with new colleague Dr. Jordan Flynn starts to break through the barriers around his heart. Having both sworn off relationships they agree to a temporary fling. Then danger strikes…and they’re forced to realize their feelings are anything but temporary!

Doctors Under the Stars duet

Book 1 — His Surgeon Under the Southern Lights

Book 2 — Reunited in the Snow

 

BookOct4

 

Melting the Trauma Doc’s Heart by Alison Roberts

He ran away from his past…

Is she a reason to stop running?

Trauma doctor Zac Cameron escaped the horrors of the battlefield and settled in a small community hospital. He’s just about coping until an unexpected visitor—renowned surgeon Dr. Olivia Donaldson—whirls into town. She might be his boss’s estranged daughter, but their chemistry’s instant—and irresistible! Yet Zac’s emotions are completely off-limits, unless Olivia’s the one who can thaw his frozen heart…?

 

BookOct5

 

Reunited in the Snow by Amalie Berlin

Left at the altar…

…reunited under the stars!

In this Doctors Under the Stars story, Lia Monterrosa arrives at the Antarctic science station as resident staff doctor… and comes face-to-face with her ex fiancé! Working in close confines means brooding Dr. Weston MacIntyre can’t hide the painful reason he left Lia at the altar much longer. Lia knows she must guard her heart — especially as desire as bright as the Southern Lights still blazes between them!

Doctors Under the Stars duet

Book 1 — His Surgeon Under the Southern Lights

Book 2 — Reunited in the Snow

 

BookOct6

The Nurse’s Christmas Temptation by Ann McIntosh

She didn’t plan on celebrating Christmas…

Can he change her mind?

Nurse Harmony Kinkaid grabs the chance to spend Christmas working on a remote Scottish island. Without her beloved grandmother, the season won’t be the same. But her organized world is thrown off balance by her fierce attraction to daredevil Dr. Cameron MacRurie. He’s her complete opposite — she’d be foolish to fall for him. Yet as Christmas lights begin to shine, Cam becomes a temptation impossible to ignore…

 

Hope you have a great October! And are any of these new releases in your TBR pile?

 

 

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…

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases

April New Releases

Welcome to April medrom readers! Another six releases for us all this month including one very special one – Caroline Anderson’s 100th book for Mills and Boon!!! Congratulations to Caroline and I’m sure everyone will join with us in wishing her and us, her readers, 100 more!

 

A Single Dad To Heal Her Heart by Caroline Anderson (Youxburgh Park)med2

Could a single dad of two…be the answer to her dreams?

Trauma doc Livvy Henderson loves her job and friends, and she’s been cancer free for five years. She’s content…until she meets widowed father, handsome surgeon Matt Hunter on a team weekend in Cumbria. Their powerful connection reawakens her fears, desires and longing for a family she’s long since locked away. But Matt finds he’s ready to convince her she belongs in his, whatever the future holds…

 

 

Pregnant by the Playboy Surgeon by Lucy Ryder

med1

 

A red-hot night…A nine-month consequence!
After an unhappy marriage, ER doctor Danielle Stevens has no interest in men—let alone a playboy like sexy surgeon Dylan St. James! But after discovering that he works at her hospital, she finds he’s also her neighbor! And he becomes increasingly impossible to ignore…or resist. One passionate night later Dani and Dylan are facing some unexpected consequences. But is Dylan ready to go from fling to fatherhood?

 

 

A Surgeon For The Single Mom by Charlotte Hawkes

From bachelor doc…to family man!med3

As a single parent and helicopter rescue doc, fiercely independent Effie Robinson has no time for romance! So when hotshot neurosurgeon Talank Basu proposes a mutually beneficial dating ruse, what could be the harm? Only, Effie’s not prepared for how protected and supported he makes her feel… Tak’s fighting their sizzling attraction just as much as she is—will they finally give in and trust in their once-in-a-lifetime chemistry?

 

 

 

From Doctor To Daddy by Becky Wicks

med4

Can he fix the past…by giving her daughter a future?

Six years ago, Dr. Fraser Breckenridge allowed Sara to walk out of his life and has always regretted it. He seizes the opportunity to employ her on board a Caribbean cruise ship for dialysis patients, but Sara now has an adorable little girl who urgently needs a new kidney. Can Fraser uncover why Sara left and give her—and Esme—a reason to stay?

 

 

 

The Prince’s Cinderella Doc by Louise Heatonmed5

A doctor, a single dad princeand a happy-ever-after?

Dr Krystiana Szenac’s whole world is turned upside down when she’s hired to complete Crown Prince Matteo’s yearly physical. Especially when an unfortunate accident leaves her homeless – and Matteo offers her a room at the palace! Despite being worlds apart, Krystiana’s pulled into Matteo’s life by his fun-loving young daughter. But is sharing their passions and secrets enough to heal their guarded hearts…and lead to true love?

 

Resisting Her Rescue Doc by Alison Roberts

med6An irresistible attractionThat won’t be denied!

Paramedic Cooper Sinclair’s carefully planned first day at New Zealand’s Aratika Rescue Base goes awry when he joins forces with fiery Felicity “Fizz” Wilson to rescue a car crash victim from the sea! The stunning adrenaline junkie should be off-limits to a brooding, guarded man like him, but her skill and vitality are undeniable. Cooper’s avoided love for so long, but can he ignore his attraction to Fizz?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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, Holiday Celebrations

The Medical Romance Team are proud to present…Hope Children’s Hospital!

When it comes to Christmas you can never be too prepared! And the Medical Romance Team certainly weren’t wasting any time when it came to planning Hope Children’s Hospital, our Christmas continuity for 2018. We started brainstorming last October (yes, we were that excited…!). It’s always a huge amount of fun coming up with ideas, and this year’s continuity was no different. In fact, it may be one of our favourites, so we wanted to give you a sneak peak of what goes on behind the scenes, and share all the festive fun with you…

But first, what do we mean when we say ‘continuity’?

A ‘continuity’ is the Mills & Boon team’s term for a miniseries of linked books which are written by different authors and which the editors come up with the overall story theme and individual plot outlines for. We normally brainstorm four romances for these…so naturally they’re a highlight of our year!

And how did Hope Children’s Hospital come to life?

Well, first off, the Medical Romance Team got comfortable and settled into a meeting room (with copious amounts of tea and treats, of course!) to begin thinking about what we wanted the continuity to be about. Quickly deciding that we wanted something centred around the hope and joy of Christmas on a children’s ward, it was time to invite the rest of the M&B Team to join the party (sorry…the meeting).

And with the help of a few mince pies to get the ideas flowing, we discussed everything! From the type of hospital and what fabulous location it would be set in, to who the heroes and heroines would be – this was such fun! Then, and maybe most importantly, we talked about how each of the romances would interweave and interact with one another so that readers could fully immerse themselves in the magical world of Hope Children’s Hospital.

Next, it was time to hand over to our fabulously talented authors and let them loose on their individual stories (they’re the expert storytellers, after all!). And luckily they loved the continuity just as much as we did! They were excited to get collaborating themselves – with 4 stories, 4 authors and 4 editors, communication was key! – and turn the outlines into pulse-racing love stories with a huge helping of medical drama and festive spirit!

And, now, one year later, here we are! The first two books have already hit the shelves, the final two won’t be far behind, and it’s time to cuddle up with a hot beverage of your choice and dive into this year’s Medical Romance Christmas continuity.

Here’s what you can look forward to in…

Hope Children’s Hospital
Christmas magic on the children’s ward!

It’s a time of miracles and magic – and as Hope Children’s Hospital prepares to celebrate its first Christmas in the historic city of Cambridge, England, the staff will do everything they can to make their little patients’ wishes come true.

Billionaire CEO Theo Hawkwood leads a world-renowned handpicked medical team who strive to give the best treatment to their precious charges, and hope to all who come through the doors. This Christmas, they’ll discover that miracles can be found in the most unexpected of places – and love will prove to be the greatest gift of all!

Their Newborn Baby Gift
by Alison Roberts

One Night, One Unexpected Miracle
by Caroline Anderson

Available November 2018!

 

The Army Doc’s Christmas Angel
by Annie O’Neil

The Billionaire’s Christmas Wish
by Tina Beckett

Available December 2018!

 

 

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, New Releases

November New Releases!

Six shiny new Medical Romances, for November, including the first two stories from Hope Children’s Hospital!

lgcover.9781488080098.jpg A Daddy Sent by Santa, by Susan Carlisle

When a small-town mom…

Falls for a big-city doc…

Nurse Lauren Wilson is used to doctors coming and going in her Oklahoma town — and doesn’t expect prestigious Boston doc Paxton Samuels to be any different. Until they’re snowed in together and their sensual tension reaches boiling point! But knowing Paxton is due to leave after the festive season, can Lauren risk giving him her heart and her little boy a daddy for Christmas?

 

 

Midwife Under the Mistletoe, by Karin Bainelgcover.9781488080104.jpg

A kiss under the mistletoe…

A family for Christmas?

GP Fraser McColl longs to be part of a loving family, but past experience has taught him he’s better off alone. Only, thrown together with gorgeous yet guarded midwife Iona Munro, to care for two children at Christmas, he’s tempted to believe in miracles… After one passionate night together, can he persuade Iona that they deserve a lifetime of happiness—together?

 

 

 

lgcover.9781488080081.jpgFirefighter’s Christmas Baby, by Annie Claydon

A festive fling…

With consequences!

Firefighter Ben Matthews is committed to his job above all else since his last relationship ended badly. Until he meets alluring and fiercely independent paramedic Callie Walsh! Their fiery exchanges over the project she’s working on at his fire station, leave Ben unable to deny their chemistry… Then Callie turns up on his doorstep — pregnant! Can some Christmas magic turn their holiday fling into a forever family?

 

 

lgcover.9781488080074.jpgNew Year Wedding for the Crown Prince, by Meredith Webber

Can the charming prince

Claim his gorgeous bride?

When Crown Prince Charles of Livaroche turns up on Dr. Jo Wainright’s Australian doorstep, their two worlds collide. Only while Charles is seeking clues to his past, Jo is determined to forget the heartbreak of hers. Stranded together this Christmas their magical connection becomes hard to ignore… But when Charles proposes, dare Jo reveal the reason that’s standing in her way of becoming his New Year bride?

 

 

lgcover.9781488080067.jpgOne Night, One Unexpected Miracle, by Caroline Anderson

Can one illicit night…

Lead to the love of a lifetime?

In this Hope Children’s Hospital story, senior pediatric surgeon Alice Baxter believes she’ll never conceive. So is stunned to find she’s pregnant after one spontaneous night with colleague Marco Ricci! She might be his buttoned-up boss but their chemistry is off the charts. And when Marco whisks Alice to his family’s Italian castello she discovers he’s determined to claim both his baby…and her heart too!

 

 

lgcover.9781488080050.jpgTheir Newborn Baby Gift, by Alison Roberts

Could an abandoned baby…

…melt the surgeon’s frozen heart?

In this Hope Children’s Hospital story, pediatric heart surgeon Ryan Walker knows that shy receptionist and neonatal “baby cuddler” Evie Cooper is off-limits to a jaded playboy like him! But when they discover an abandoned newborn, they must work together to care for her. Ryan will do everything he can to mend baby Grace’s heart—will he lose his own to Evie in the process?

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Remembering Margaret Barker

We’re taking some time today to remember a wonderful author and friend.  Margaret Barker, author of over 60 titles for Harlequin/Mills and Boon Medical Romance, passed away earlier this year.  Writers Kate Hardy and Caroline Anderson, and Senior Editor Sheila Hodgson share their memories of Margaret, and Kate has also shared three photographs (Kate is the lady behind the lens in the first two).

Caroline Anderson

caroline and margaret
Margaret and Caroline

I first met Margaret in the early 1990s as my first book hit the shelves, after I’d been asked to do an interview on local radio with Mary Lyons, who had been writing romances for Mills & Boon for some time.  It was a hilarious interview, and afterwards Mary invited me to lunch in Colchester with another author, Margaret Barker, who also wrote Medicals.  It was a fabulous lunch, and Margaret then invited me to her house for an author ‘do’.  What a great introduction to life as a real author!  We had a marvellous lunch cooked for us by Margaret’s charming husband John, and it was a great day.  I saw Margaret frequently after that, at theirs, or at Mills & Boon functions, and it was always a joy to see her and John who often accompanied her.  On one occasion Margaret and I did a library talk somewhere near St Albans.  We dragged our husbands along, too, which of course involved lunch as well, which I began to realise seems to be a feature of author get-togethers!

Margaret came to London every year for our annual Author lunch, usually accompanied by John until his untimely death in 2006, and then she continued to come alone, still every bit as vibrant and elegant and funny as ever.  Then bit by bit she herself became more frail, until her osteoporosis was so bad she was unable to make the journey alone.

She had countless fractures but brushed them aside and carried on, and it never dimmed her spirit, she never lost her sense of humour, her charm, her wicked twinkle, her elegance or glamour.  She’ll be sorely missed, not least by her large and very close family of whom she was always so proud.

Rest in peace, my friend, and give my love to John.  I’m glad you’re together again at last.

Sheila Hodgson

margaret, sheila, caroline
Margaret, Sheila and Caroline

I was Margaret Barker’s editor for many years, and she was always a lady of style and glamour, the soul of any party, spirited, a little naughty (loved bubbles) but always so wonderfully genuine and charming with it.  But it was just part of the wonderful exuberance and joy of life that was essentially Margaret.  She approached every turn with positivity and grace.  She was never afraid of doing something different, she loved travel, lived in France, and did everything from nursing, teaching, writing and was also a mother of three, her family, including her many grandchildren were at the heart of everything for Margaret.

I remember she used to love to meet me for lunch at the Royal Overseas League, where she would relish chatting about her next storyline, she would jump on every idea we discussed and make it into something wonderful. And I’ll never forget the first time I met her after the death of her husband, she talked about him with such love, and such joy but she also was looking forward to what came next, her next book, her next venture, she particularly touched me that day.  And she never allowed any health issue of her own to stop her from doing anything.  Margaret always found a way.

She was such a wonderful lady, you couldn’t help but smile and laugh in her presence, and her belief that everything would turn out fine and that there was always more of life to be enjoyed was an inspiration, both to me, and of course it was the essence of her romance writing.  I will miss her hugely, and I know that her readers will too.

Kate Hardy

102-0271_IMG
Kate, Sheila Danton, Jennifer Taylor, Caroline, Roger Sanderson and Margaret.

I first met Margaret Barker in the late 1990s at an East Anglia RNA lunch. She was the first M&B author I’d ever met and she was INCREDIBLY glamorous! Very charming, very funny, and great company. She used to head the RNA chapter back then, and persuaded me to organise a couple of lunches. I do remember her trying to persuade me to take over the RNA chapter – but I had to decline as I’d discovered earlier that week I was expecting my youngest.

She was always a delight to be with at M&B and RNA lunches, full of wonderful tales of her travels in India, and she was always very kind. She always greeted me with a hug (a gentle one in later years when her osteoporosis took hold) – and to be honest the M&B author lunch this year is going to put a lump in my throat because it won’t feel the same without her and Sara Craven.

When I think of diamonds and champagne, I’ll always think of Margaret Barker, with a very big smile.

Excerpts, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Excerpt – Their Own Little Miracle, by Caroline Anderson

9781474075251

A surrogate mum—
And then she fell in love…

When Dr Iona Murray agrees to be her sister’s surrogate she never imagines it will lead her into Dr Joe Baker’s arms. Joe has no intention of ever being a sperm donor again, or of becoming emotionally attached after his painful divorce. But when he meets Iona his boundaries become truly blurred. Will they be able to give up their baby…or each other?

 

 

 

He still had her stethoscope.

The graduation present from her sister, the one he’d been told in no uncertain terms not to lose or damage. He could see why, it was a really expensive one, although it had to be a few years old now. No wonder she’d been precious about it. His own was only slightly better, and he’d bought it last year because he’d mislaid the one identical to this.

That was getting to be a habit.

He changed out of his scrubs, pulled on his clothes, clipped his watch on his wrist and checked the time. Seven-thirty. She’d be long gone, unless she was on a late shift, but it was worth a try. He might even invite her out for dinner—assuming she’d speak to him. He’d been a bit tough on her, but he felt a grudging admiration for a junior registrar who’d had the guts to stand up to him in defence of her patient.

He headed down to the ED, found the nurse who’d been with them in Resus and asked her where Iona was.

She folded her arms and looked him straight in the eye, and he had the distinct feeling he was in trouble. ‘She’s gone.’

‘Do you know where I can find her? I borrowed her stethoscope and forgot to give it back.’

‘Yes, she mentioned that. She wasn’t happy about it.’

He laughed softly. ‘No, I’m sure she wasn’t.’

‘You can leave it with me.’

‘I can’t do that. She told me I’d be dead meat if anything happened to it and I don’t think it was an empty threat. I’ll hang onto it and give it to her tomorrow.’

‘She’s away this weekend. She’s not back in till Monday.’

‘And I’m on a course next week. Great.’ He hesitated. ‘I don’t suppose you know her address or mobile number?’

Jenny raised an eyebrow. ‘Now, you don’t seriously expect me to give it to you? I do know where you can find her, though. She’s at the Queens Hotel just round the corner. There’s a charity speed-dating event raising money for the new IR angio-surgical suite. I’m surprised you aren’t going anyway as it’s in aid of your department, but here’s your chance to support it. Out of the drive, turn left, five hundred yards on the right. You can’t miss it.’

Speed-dating? Seriously? She was gorgeous! Why would she need to go speed-dating, of all things? And then he realised she’d be helping with the organisation. Idiot.

‘OK. Thanks.’ He headed for his car, followed the directions and parked on the road opposite the hotel. The speed-dating event was signposted from Reception, and he headed towards the door. It shouldn’t be hard to find her—

‘Oh, excellent, we’re short of men, especially good-looking young doctors. That’ll be ten pounds, please. Can I take your name?’

He frowned. ‘How do you know I’m a doctor?’

‘The stethoscope?’

‘Ah. Yes. Actually—’ He was about to tell the woman why he was there, and then spotted Iona at one of the tables that were arranged in a circle, a man sitting opposite her. OK, she wasn’t just helping, she was actually doing it as well, and if he wanted to see her, he’d have to pay up and queue for his slot. That was fine. It meant she’d have to listen to him for three minutes or whatever it was, which meant he’d have time to apologise for pushing her so far out of her comfort zone in Resus. And having three minutes to look at her was no hardship. He might even persuade her to go out for dinner—

‘Name, please?’

‘Sorry. Joe Baker. I’ve only got a twenty-pound note,’ he said, but the woman just smiled, said, ‘That’ll do perfectly,’ plucked it out of his fingers, stuck a label with ‘JOE’ written on it on his chest and handed him a printed card and a pencil.

So he could score the ladies? Good grief. He wrote her name and ten out of ten, and waited.

There was a gap before Iona, maybe because of the lack of men, so he hovered and then pounced when the bell rang and the man at her table got up and moved on.

He sat down in front of her, and she looked up from her score card and did a mild double take, her eyes widening.

‘What are you doing here?’

He took the stethoscope from round his neck and handed it to her with a rueful smile. ‘I forgot to return this, and when I refused to give it to the nurse who was in Resus because you’d told me in no uncertain terms what you’d do to me, she told me where to find you.’

Her mouth flickered in a smile. ‘Ah. Jenny.’

‘Yeah, that’s right. She wouldn’t give me your address.’

Her eyes widened. ‘I should hope not!’

He gave a little huff of laughter at the outrage in her voice. ‘I might have been insulted if I hadn’t been glad she was so protective of your privacy, but I also wanted to apologise for pushing you out of your comfort zone in Resus.’

‘You don’t need to apologise,’ she said, her clear and really rather lovely green eyes clouding, ‘even though you were rude and patronising—’

‘Rude and patronising?’ he asked, pretending to be outraged, but she held his eyes and a little smile tugged at her mouth, drawing his attention to it. Soft, full, and very expressive. Like her eyes. He wondered what it would be like to kiss her—

‘You were a teeny bit. I was way out of my comfort zone, because I thought you’d need more from me than I could give you. I’ve never led before on a case that critical and I should have appreciated you’d only do what you knew you could, but I was afraid Jim was going to die and I was freaking out a bit. I’m sorry you took it wrong, it really wasn’t meant like that.’

‘Don’t apologise,’ he said wryly. ‘Standing up to me took guts, and you were quite right about the risks. Without image guidance there were no guarantees I could get the guide wire in without causing more damage, but I’d had a good look at the X-rays and I was pretty sure I could do it, and anyway, as I think I pointed out fairly succinctly, Jim had run out of options. He’s OK, by the way. I sorted the bleeds, repaired the entry site and shipped him off to the orthos with a nice healthy reperfusion and well within the time limit. They’ve put an ex-fix on in Theatre and he’s doing OK.’

He saw her shoulders sag slightly with relief. ‘Oh, good. Thanks for the update. I’ve been worrying about him.’

‘No need to worry, he’s sore, he’s broken but he’ll make it. Good stethoscope, by the way. Very good. Your sister must think a lot of you.’

She smiled, her eyes softening. ‘She does. That’s why I was worried about you walking off with it, knowing you’d already lost yours. It didn’t bode well.’

He laughed at that little dig. ‘I hadn’t lost it, it was in my locker, I just failed to pick it up—but I did lose the last one, so you weren’t wide of the mark. You did well, by the way,’ he added, sliding his score sheet across the table to her. ‘It was a tricky case to manage and you’d done everything right. You should be proud of yourself.’

She glanced down at the paper and her eyes widened. ‘Ten out of ten? That’s very generous. You must be feeling guilty.’

‘No, I just give credit where it’s due, even if I amrude and patronising. And I did return your stethoscope, so hopefully that’ll earn me a few Brownie points.’

‘Maybe the odd one.’

Her lips twitched, and he sat back with a smile, folded his arms and held her eyes, trying not to think about kissing her. Or peeling off that clingy little top and—

‘So, anyway, that’s why I’m here. What about you?’

‘Me?’ She looked slightly flustered. ‘Because it’s a good cause?’

He raised an eyebrow at her, deeply unconvinced, and she smiled and shrugged and took him completely by surprise. ‘OK. You asked. I’m looking for a sperm donor.’

Joe felt his jaw drop, and he stifled the laugh in the nick of time. Of all the unlikely things for her to say, and to him, of all people…

‘You’re kidding.’

‘No. No, I’m not kidding. I’m looking for a tall Nordic type with white-blond hair, blue eyes and good bone structure, so you can relax, you don’t qualify.’

‘I might feel a bit insulted by that,’ he said, still trying to work out if she was joking.

She smiled, her eyes mocking. ‘Oh, don’t be, it’s not personal. I have very specific criteria and you don’t fit them.’

He frowned at her, but she was so deadpan he didn’t know whether she was completely off her trolley or winding him up. He turned and scanned the men in the room and this time he didn’t stifle the laugh.

‘OK,’ he murmured in a low undertone. ‘Nor does anyone else in this room. So far you’ve written zero out of ten against everyone, and the nearest candidate is white-blond because he’s twice your age. He’s also about three inches shorter than you and twice as heavy. And the lady on the next table looks utterly terrifying, so frankly I reckon we’re done here. I’m starving, I haven’t eaten since breakfast and I don’t suppose you have, either, so why don’t we get the hell out of here, go and find a nice pub and have something to eat? And that way I can apologise properly for being rude and patronising.

‘Won’t your wife mind?’ she asked, clearly fishing, and he raised an eyebrow and gave her the short answer.

‘I don’t have one. So—dinner?’

She hesitated for so long he thought she was going to say no, but then the bell rang, the lady at the next table was eyeing him hungrily, and she looked at the man heading to take his place, grabbed her bag and stethoscope and got to her feet.

‘Sorry. We have to go,’ she said, squeezing round from behind the table, and they headed for the door amid a chorus of protests. From both sexes. He stifled a smile.

‘Right, where to?’ he asked, and she shrugged.

‘What do you fancy? Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Asian fusion, pub grub, Italian, modern British—’

‘Good grief. All of those in Yoxburgh?’

She chuckled. ‘Oh, yes. They might be busy, though, it’s Friday night.’

He had a much better idea. ‘How about a nice, cosy gastro-pub? There’s one right round the corner from my house that comes highly recommended, and we’ll definitely get a table there.’

‘Is it far? Can I walk back? My car’s at home.’

‘No, it’s a bit out of town, but that’s fine, I’ll drive you home. Look on it as a hire charge for the use of your stethoscope.’

Again she hesitated, a wary look in her eyes, but then she nodded as if she’d finally decided she could trust him. ‘OK. That sounds good.’