Authors: Lucy Clark
Emerson-Rose Jofille. She wore a pair of designer jeans, with a wide-brimmed hat on top of her head. Her eyes were shielded from the bright midday sun by a pair of sunglasses, which she promptly removed.
As she turned, he realised her long auburn hair was pulled back into one long, sensible plait. It was a stark contrast with the way she appeared on TV, or in the gossip pages of the papers, where her silken locks were usually floating softly around her shoulders, perfectly framing her exquisite features.
Dart took his right hand from his pocket and held it out, giving her a firm, polite handshake. ‘Dart Freeman,’ he said. ‘Current surgeon in charge.’
When she looked up at him he realised her face was devoid of make-up, and for some reason that surprised him. Then she smiled at him, and he realised she was far more beautiful in real life than he’d ever imagined. He’d seen her photograph many times, but could honestly say now that no camera had ever done her true justice. Her natural, radiant beauty seemed to pour out of her as she smiled warmly at him and placed her slim, small hand into his own large one.
The touch of her smooth, soft skin against his caused him to feel a tug of sensual awareness deep in his gut. No doubt this woman was used to having every man around her dangling on a string like a helpless puppet. Well, not him.
is a husband-and-wife writing team. They enjoy taking holidays with their two children, during which they discuss and develop new ideas for their books using the fantastic Australian scenery. They use their daily walks to talk over characterisation and fine details of the wonderful stories they produce, and are avid movie buffs. They live on the edge of a popular wine district in South Australia, and enjoy spending family time together at weekends.
Recent titles by the same author:
THE DOCTOR’S DOUBLE TROUBLE
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A BABY TO CARE FOR
NEW BOSS, NEW-YEAR BRIDE
For Jo, keep being magnificent! Ex 4:11
did it have to happen during
Dartagnan Freeman was very annoyed. He shook his head and turned to look at Jalak, the Tarparniian village elder.
‘I do not understand why you are so filled with anger about this,’ Jalak responded.
‘I’m not angry.’ Dart pushed a hand through his dark brown hair. Usually, he kept it short but as he’d been providing medical care to Tarparniian villages for almost three months, it had grown a little longer. ‘I’m frustrated. Television crews get in the way and have their own agenda because ultimately it’s all about the ratings and their advertising revenue.’
‘They do not do good work now?’ Jalak was confused.
Dart closed his eyes, mentally calming himself down, not wanting to offend the man who had welcomed him to the village and provided wise counsel during his stay. ‘They do very good work.’ He opened his eyes and turned to tidy up the medical hut where he’d just finished a busy morning clinic. He’d been on his own today so everything had taken twice as long and he was more tired than usual. ‘The pictures when broadcast at home will inform the public about the plight of your people, on the events that have ravaged your country. A TV crew coming here is a good thing, Jalak.’
‘Then why do you do the objecting?’
Dart stopped and put both hands in the pockets of his khaki
shorts, his feet in leather boat shoes, a light cotton shirt covering his torso. He hadn’t managed to shave that morning so his face was covered with a rugged smattering of stubble. It was hot, humid and he was tired from the clinic. They needed more medical supplies, more medical support, more of everything, but what he didn’t need was a film crew, anchored by the latest bit of TV fluff—Ms Emerson-Rose Jofille—to cap off his already hectic day.
He’d seen Emerson-Rose on television before. She’d no doubt secured the job as a lead presenter for a medical health television show by using her father’s influence. Sebastian Jofille was a media mogul and it appeared his daughter was more than happy to be in front of the camera, smiling her perfect smile, swishing her long auburn locks around, dazzling audiences with those piercing blue eyes of hers. It was rumoured that she actually held a medical degree but waltzing around a television studio or presenting segments on morning talk shows wasn’t helping diminish the long public clinic lists in Australia, it wasn’t helping Jalak and his village and it wasn’t helping him. At least, that was
opinion and he was sticking to it.
No. He was not looking forward to having Emerson-Rose and her crew here, shoving their cameras in his face, asking him questions about adaptive medical techniques. Operating and clinic lists weren’t easy in a ‘back to basics’ environment where they suffered from a serious lack of equipment and supplies. Still, he and his staff were happy with whatever they could get their hands on and the doctors who worked for PMA were
doctors and weren’t here to prance around in front of cameras.
It might be ‘interesting’ to the viewers back home but for Dart, having to explain everything he did was simply another inconvenience he had to endure. In seven days’ time, his rotation would be over and he wouldn’t return to Tarparnii for
another six months, going back to his job at Brisbane General Hospital as a visiting consultant general surgeon.
If only the film crew had waited a bit longer before coming, he would have missed the entire thing. He was tired. He came to Tarparnii to help out, to not only help the people of this wonderful country but so he could forget about and escape the shambles he had made of his own life.
He looked at Jalak, the man who had welcomed him and the rest of the medical team warmly to the village ten weeks ago. ‘I apologise for my mood,’ Dart said respectfully. ‘I don’t mean to object or make things more confusing for you, Jalak. The television crew will definitely raise the profile of the situation here and no doubt there will be some sort of an appeal where money will be raised and we might actually be able to get a proper generator instead of a third-hand one that always needs repair.’
Jalak nodded, then angled his head to the side and listened. ‘I hear the trucks approaching. I must go welcome.’ With that Jalak headed out of the medical hut, giving Dart a few more minutes to tidy up before he, too, went outside, closing the screen door behind him. He walked through to the dirt track that worked as a service road to the village, just in time to see the woman who was responsible for his present frustration alighting from the large truck that had transported her here from the airstrip.
Emerson-Rose Jofille. She was quite a bit shorter than he’d expected, probably about five feet three. She wore lace-up flat boots, a pair of designer jeans, which seemed to almost hug her petite frame, a light blue cotton shirt covering her arms but open slightly at the neck. A wide-brimmed hat was on top of her head, her eyes shielded from the bright midday sun by a pair of sunglasses, which she promptly removed as Jalak and his wife Meeree came forward to greet her.
As she turned, he realised her long auburn hair was pulled
back into one long sensible plait that hung down her perfectly erect back. It was a stark contrast from the way she appeared on the TV or in the gossip pages of the paper, her silken locks usually floating softly around her shoulders, perfectly framing her exquisite features. She certainly held herself well and he knew she’d no doubt attended one of the world’s top finishing schools, and with Daddy’s money behind her, she’d more than likely never known real hardship in her life.
Jalak turned and called him over, beckoning him to come closer. Dart put his hat onto his head and shoved his hands in his pockets before walking towards the television presenter and her crew, who were starting to unpack their equipment. He could see Jalak and Meeree performing the traditional way of welcoming a stranger to their village by taking Emerson-Rose’s hands in theirs and giving them a little squeeze.
‘This is Dart Freeman,’ Jalak said, performing the introductions. ‘He is our current surgeon in charge.’
Dart took his right hand out of his pocket and held it out to Emerson-Rose, giving her the Aussie greeting of a firm, polite handshake. ‘G’day. Welcome to the jungle.’
When she looked up at him, he realised her face was devoid of make-up and for some reason that surprised him. Did it mean that she had a modicum of common sense? That full make-up and fashion had no place in the middle of nowhere? Then she smiled at him and he realised she was far more beautiful in real life then he’d ever imagined.
He’d seen her photograph many times, back in Australia, mostly in the society pages and in glossy women’s magazines. He could honestly say now that no camera had ever done her true justice as her natural, radiant beauty seemed to pour out of her as she smiled warmly at him and placed her slim, small hand into his own large one. Why was it that he now felt like a lanky, ungroomed, hairy gorilla?
The touch of her smooth, soft skin against his caused him to
feel a tug of sensual awareness deep in his gut. No doubt this woman was used to having every man around her dangling on a string like a helpless puppet. Well, not him.
‘Thanks.’ Emerson-Rose laughed a little, the sweet sound washing over him, causing him to relax…but only marginally. ‘We’re so sorry to barge in here and intrude on the great work you and your medical crew are doing with the support of Pacific Medical Aid, but after hearing from a friend about the conditions for the practice of medicine, I lobbied hard with the network to be able to do a story here.’
to come here? Dart nodded slowly as her words started to sink into his mind. When he’d received notification from his PMA contact that a TV crew were coming, he’d thought Emerson-Rose had drawn the short straw and been sent here. Either that or she’d been looking for ‘adventure’ to make a change from her empty socialite days.
Now, as he stood, looking down at her, shaking her well-manicured hand, he couldn’t help but realise there seemed to be more to the woman before him then he’d initially thought. He also realised that he was still holding her hand and quickly let go, shoving his own back into his pocket. The less he touched the beautiful Ms Jofille, the less he heard her soft tones, the less he saw of her, the better off he’d be.
She introduced both her cameraman and sound man, who were unloading their delicate equipment from the trucks.
‘Please, come this way.’ Meeree beckoned, indicating they should go inside one of the huts to get out of the midday heat. ‘You must be tired and thirsty after your very long journey. Get your friends and we can all have something to drink before the rest of the work will be done.’
‘We are very quiet now,’ Jalak told them as he took his wife’s hand in his as they walked. ‘On a day of sunshine, we have lots of children and family around. This half-day, they
are at another village, giving help. We have stayed to do the welcome of Emerson-Rose Jofille and her friends.’
‘I’m sorry to have kept you from your usual routine,’ she replied smoothly. ‘And, please, call me Emmy. Everybody does.’ She glanced not only at Meeree and Jalak as she spoke but her gaze also encompassed Dart. He tried not to be affected by it, tried not to like the way her calm and personable nature was winding its way around him. He knew she’d had plenty of practice in charming people, in getting others to do her bidding. It was what the rich and famous did, for crying out loud, and it was something he neither liked nor appreciated. So long as she didn’t hurt or dupe Jalak and Meeree, who were two of the finest people on the face of this planet, then he could cope with whatever the woman dished out.
As they walked further into the village, Emmy stopped and gasped at what she saw. ‘It’s charming.’ She smiled warmly at Meeree. There were several huts made from bamboo poles with leaves woven as screens to make the walls and the roof of each building thatched with straw and reeds like a large triangular hat. Each hut was on stilts, raised off the ground with slatted walkways connecting one place with the next, so people could avoid the muddy ground.
‘What a beautiful village you have. I particularly love the gardens outside each hut. Your native flora is very colourful with a subtle, sweet scent.’ She’d bent and touched her finger to a delicate bloom, closing her eyes for an instant as she’d breathed in.
Oh, yes. She was one worthy diplomat in these parts. Dart couldn’t help the way his mind worked. Emerson-Rose and her crew were going to be nothing but an annoyance, getting underfoot while he and his team tried their best to provide medical attention not only to this village but to several of the surrounding ones. As a main village, people often walked here from miles away to attend a medical clinic. On other
occasions, such as today, loads of medical supplies and accompanying personnel made their way via truck to outlying areas where attention was more urgently required. Being in a country that had had civil unrest for well over two decades, it often meant that medical help had to be sent out rather than people coming to them.
He had stayed behind to continue doing the regular morning clinic but also to be on hand to welcome Ms Jofille and her band of merry men. He looked over the crew as he stood back and waited for them all to remove their shoes before traipsing into Meeree and Jalak’s hut, hoping they weren’t going to make things difficult.
Some of the young children came running over, the meaning of the guttural chatter of their native tongue completely lost on the newcomers. A few of the children hugged Dart around his legs. One little boy of about two put up his hands, begging Dart to pick him up. He smiled down at the child and scooped him up in one easy move, the thin arms going around Dart’s neck as though the little boy was both excited and scared to be so high in the air. Emmy was momentarily captivated by the sight.
He was tall, easily six feet five, and by far the tallest man here, given that the native Tarparniian adults didn’t seem to grow above five feet ten, or so it seemed. Emmy watched the way he treated the children with an open friendliness, nearly tripping over her own feet at the natural smile he gave the child he was holding. It completely changed his features.
His deep brown eyes sparkled with delight and happiness, his face broke from the firm, polite mask he’d worn when he’d greeted her and his entire stance seemed to relax with the child’s arms around his neck. He also looked very…natural, being surrounded by children, and she idly wondered whether he was married with a gaggle of his own.
Even now, as he stayed just outside the hut, allowing
everyone else to gather inside, Emmy had the feeling that Dart Freeman wasn’t at all happy to have her and her crew here in the small village. He hadn’t said anything but she’d become an expert at reading body language during her years in public life. People often said one thing but their bodies conveyed another. Well, he’d just have to like it or lump it because for the next week, she and her film crew were determined to throw some light on the serious difficulties of bringing medical care to this country.
After talking to her good friend Eden Montgomery about Tarparnii and the challenges the medics working with PMA often faced, Emmy had decided to use her ‘popularity’, for want of a better word, to do something positive about it. It hadn’t been easy convincing the network to go for the idea but as she’d inherited her father’s keen business sense as well as her mother’s ability to charm people, she’d been able to pull it off.
Emmy turned her head, purposely looking away from the gorgeous Dart Freeman, especially as he’d now picked up another moppet and had one in each arm, others still staying safely by his feet with their wide brown eyes, thin little arms and extended abdomens watching the newcomers with curiosity.
It didn’t matter that she’d got the feeling that the tall surgeon didn’t really care for her being here, crew included—she had a job to do and she was going to do it. Meeree was still waiting patiently for all of them to crowd into her hut. One of the children, no older than three, was lining up all the shoes by the door, keeping them nice and straight.