Today we’re bringing you an excerpt from Jennifer Taylor’s new release, ‘Bride for the Single Dad‘. This is the second book in Jennifer’s trilogy ‘The Larches Practise’ the first being ‘The Boss who stole her Heart‘.
Both books are available from Amazon, Mills and Boon UK, Mills and Boon Australia and Harlequin.
Why did this have to happen today of all days? Surely she had enough to contend with, without this as well!
Polly Davies struggled to contain her frustration as she brought her car to a halt. Opening the door, she hurried over to where two vehicles had collided in the centre of the carriageway. It was barely six a.m. and there was no other traffic about but Polly was very aware that if the accident had happened later then it could have been a different story. A lot of people could have been injured then so it seemed that even the darkest cloud could have a silver lining. Maybe that maxim could be applied to her own situation?
Polly bit back a sob, knowing that now wasn’t the right time to dwell on what had happened. Right now her main concern was to check if anyone had been injured. It appeared that one of the vehicles had run into the back of the other. It was a very expensive car too, the logo on its bonnet declaring its pedigree for all the world to admire. Even as she watched, a tall dark-haired man climbed out of the driver’s seat, cursing under his breath when he saw the dent in the front bumper. It was obvious that he wasn’t seriously injured, however, so Polly headed towards the other vehicle, her footsteps quickening when she recognized it as the van belonging to the Applethwaite family. They used it to deliver their famous Dales lamb to the local shops and restaurants, but it was only as she drew closer that she realised Lauren Applethwaite was driving it. Polly’s heart sank. At three months pregnant, and with a history of miscarriages, this was the last thing that poor Lauren needed.
‘Lauren, are you all right?’ Polly demanded, opening the van door.
‘I don’t know. I had this terrible pain…’ Lauren broke off and groaned. ‘There it is again.’
‘Just try to stay calm,’ Polly instructed when she heard the panic in Lauren’s voice. She leant into the van, knowing that she couldn’t risk moving Lauren until she was sure that she hadn’t suffered a spinal injury. Her heart sank that bit more because the last thing she wanted was for Lauren to become even more upset if she had to remain in the van. The calmer she was, the better it would be for her baby…
‘Stop! For heaven’s sake, woman, have you no sense?’
Polly stopped dead when she heard the deep voice behind her. Turning, she saw the driver of the other vehicle striding towards her. He glared down at her and she shivered when she saw the hostility in his green eyes. As the community midwife, she was used to dealing with all types of people. However she had never seen such naked animosity on anyone’s face before.
‘You never, ever, move an accident victim until you’re sure they haven’t suffered a spinal injury,’ he rapped out.
Polly flushed, resenting both his tone and his assumption that she had no idea what she was doing. However, before she could explain that she had been about to check that it was safe to move Lauren, he elbowed her aside. Sliding his hand between Lauren’s back and the seat, he gently ran his fingers down her spine, and Polly frowned. There was a confidence about his actions that pointed towards the fact that he knew exactly what he was doing. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him if he was medically trained when he turned to her and the question froze on her lips when once again she was treated to an openly hostile look. It made her wonder if he had a problem with her in particular or with women in general before she dismissed the thought. She had enough problems of her own without worrying about his.
The thought of what had happened in the past few hours rose up and swamped her before she could stop it. She should have realised that something was terribly wrong when Martin failed to phone her last night, she thought, feeling the bitter tears stinging her eyes. She had tried calling him but she had been put straight through to voicemail. She must have left a dozen messages, asking him to phone her back, but when he still hadn’t replied by midnight she had got into her car and driven to the cottage they had bought. Martin’s parents had given them the deposit as a wedding present and Polly had been thrilled at the thought of them starting their married life in their very own home.
It had been a relief to find lights on when she had reached the cottage. At least it appeared that Martin hadn’t had an accident even if he hadn’t returned her calls, Polly had thought as she had let herself in. However, her anxiety had soon started to rise again as she had checked each room and found no sign of him. It was only when she had gone back to the sitting room that she had seen the envelope propped up on the mantelpiece…
‘There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with her spine from what I can tell, but it would be better to wait until the ambulance gets here before we attempt to move her.’
Polly dragged her thoughts back to the current situation when the man spoke to her. ‘That won’t be possible,’ she said, blanking out the thought of the furore it was going to cause when everyone found out what had happened. She forced down the fresh wave of panic that hit her, aware that there was nothing she could do about it. ‘We need to get her out of there immediately.’
‘There’s no way I’m prepared to take that risk,’ he countered, his dark brows drawing together into a frown. It was obvious that he didn’t appreciate her arguing with him but Polly wasn’t going to let that deter her. Stepping away from the van, she beckoned for him to join her.
‘Lauren is three month’s pregnant,’ she explained flatly. ‘She has a history of miscarriages and has just told me that she’s having pains. She needs to lie down if we’re to have any chance at all of saving this baby.’
‘And you’re an expert on these matters, are you?’
‘Yes, as it happens I am.’ Polly bridled at the disparaging note in his voice. Normally, she would have let it pass but not today when she was already feeling so emotional. She looked coldly back at him. ‘I’m the community midwife for this area and Lauren is one of my patients. I think I can safely say that I know what I’m talking about.’
Elliot Grey could feel his temper soaring, which was unusual for him but he really didn’t need this aggravation on top of everything else that had happened recently. He had spent the last week trying to sort out the mess he had found himself in and he had failed. Miserably. He was no closer to finding anyone reliable to look after his son, Joseph, than he’d been this time last week. Not for the first time, he found himself wondering if he’d made a huge mistake by moving to the Yorkshire Dales. Back in London, he could have contacted any of a dozen agencies and there would have been a highly qualified nanny knocking on his door a couple of hours later. Granted, he would have had to pay through the nose for such a service but money didn’t matter: making sure Joseph was safe and happy was his only concern…
But Joseph hadn’t been happy, had he? Elliot thought suddenly. Joseph had hated the constant changes, the fact that no sooner had a new nanny been hired then she would find another job and leave. That was why Elliot had decided to leave the city and relocate to the country. It would be easier to find someone permanent to care for Joseph while he was at work in a place where fewer jobs were available, he had reasoned. However, it certainly hadn’t worked out that way. The woman he had hired had backed out at the last moment and finding anyone else qualified to look after an eight-year-old with major health issues was proving an uphill battle…
‘Hello? I hate to rush you but I would like to get this sorted out this side of Christmas if it isn’t too much trouble.’
The sarcasm in the woman’s voice roused him. Elliot glowered at the tall, red-haired woman who was watching him with what looked very much like disdain on her face. It was a whole new experience to have anyone look at him that way too. None of his former colleagues would have dared and, as for anyone else, then he would have soon put them in their place. However, he had a feeling that this woman cared little about upsetting him and it made him feel strangely vulnerable to realise that his disapproval meant nothing to her.
Elliot dismissed that thought as the fanciful nonsense it undoubtedly was. Moving back to the van, he peered inside, his reservations about moving the driver disappearing when he saw the pain on her face. It was obvious that they needed to get her out of there as quickly as possible.
‘I’ve a rug in my car – I’ll go and fetch it.’
He glanced round when the red-haired woman spoke beside him, feeling his senses swirl as he inhaled the fragrance of the shampoo she had used to wash her hair. It was years since he had been aware of something like that and it shook him so that he missed what she said next. ‘I’m sorry – what was that?’ he asked thickly.
‘Can you phone for an ambulance while I fetch the rug?’ she repeated. ‘Lauren’s in a great deal of pain and she needs to be in hospital.’
Elliot nodded, not trusting himself to say anything this time, although it was understandable if he was acting out of character after the week he’d had. The thought helped to reassure him as he took his mobile phone from his pocket and put through a call to the emergency services. He sighed inwardly when the operator explained that it would take some time for the ambulance to reach them. The sooner this was over and done with, the sooner he could get home to Joseph, he thought anxiously as he ended the call. Asking Mrs Danton, his newly acquired housekeeper, to spend the night with his son had been a last resort, but he’d had no choice when he had been called into work. However, he couldn’t expect Mrs Danton to keep covering for him so he would need to find someone suitable to look after Joseph soon…if he could.
The thought of what little success he’d had to date didn’t sit easily with him. It was a relief when the red-haired woman came back and he could turn his attention to other matters. Elliot moved aside while she bent down to speak to the driver.
‘We’re going to get you out of there now, Lauren. We’ll take it nice and slowly so there’s nothing to worry about. The ambulance is on its way and it won’t be long before it gets here.’
Elliot felt a ripple of something that felt very much like shame run through him and he frowned. Why did he feel ashamed to hear genuine concern in her voice? Was it the fact that he was more concerned about his own problems than this poor woman? When was the last time he had really felt anything? he wondered suddenly. When had he truly cared? Oh, he cared about Joseph, of course, cared about every aspect of his son’s life. It was his raison d’etre, the thing that kept him focused. He also cared about utilizing his skills to give his young patients a better quality of life, but even then his interest was detached, impersonal. He didn’t feel it inside, didn’t feel anything very much in there. Apart from his love for Joseph, his heart was a wasteland, empty, barren, and all of a sudden Elliot found himself wishing that it was different, that he was different. Listening to this woman, with her concern and her caring, he realised how much he was lacking.
‘Can you swing your legs out, Lauren? I know it hurts, love, but we need you to lie down.’
The woman’s voice was gentle, soothing, and for some reason Elliot felt his guilt subside. Moving closer to the van, he waited until the driver had swung her legs out of the door. ‘I’ll carry her,’ he said gruffly because old habits took a long time to die.
‘Are you sure you can manage?’
The redhead shot an assessing look at him, obviously weighing up his physique, and Elliot felt himself colour. It happened so fast too that he didn’t have time to stop it. Bending, he gathered the driver into his arm, feeling heat scudding around his body. He couldn’t recall ever blushing like this before, would swear that he had never done so, not even when he was a teenager, and the shock of what had happened robbed him of the ability to speak. He could only nod like some damned puppet as he carried the young woman over to the pavement and gently laid her down on the rug.
‘Thank you.’ The red-haired woman stepped around him and knelt down. ‘Where exactly is the pain, Lauren? Can you show me?’
‘Here.’ Lauren pointed to the lower right-hand side of her abdomen and Elliot frowned.
‘Appendix?’ he murmured, not realising that he had spoken out loud until the redhead looked sharply at him.
‘Was that a lucky guess or do you have some kind of medical training?’
‘Medical training,’ he said shortly. He had a list of qualifications as long as his arm but he wasn’t about to share them with her and have her make some disparaging remark. It shook him that she should be so sensitive all of a sudden and he hurried on. ‘I’ll check with ambulance control to see how long it will be before they get here.’
‘You do that. And, while you’re speaking with them, make sure they know the patient is three months pregnant with a history of miscarriages.’ Her tone was laced with genuine concern once more. ‘They need to be prepared when they get here.’
Elliot didn’t say anything as he moved away to make the call but it didn’t stop him thinking it. Somewhere along the line he had forgotten why he had gone into medicine in the first place – to alleviate suffering and help people. Would he ever find his way back to those days when he had cared? he wondered. Return to a time when each and every patient he had treated had left their mark? He hoped so, he really did. Because he knew with a sudden flash of insight that he would never be truly happy unless he did.