Authors: Carol Marinelli
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction, #Forever Love, #Adult, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Sensual, #Hearts Desire, #Bachelor Dad, #Emergency Room, #Hospital, #Consultant, #Family Life, #Young Boy, #Single Father, #Nurse
Professional and father of one requires help with some irregular babysitting duties in return for reduced accommodation.
Rural property—set on acreage—animals welcome.
Need to be flexible.
Experience with children essential.
to be a catch, Charlotte decided as she drove her ancient car up the driveway of Adam’s farm for her interview, and glimpsed the gorgeous sprawling property. Once inside, she promptly melted upon entering the kitchen. There was a massive family room set behind it, and in the middle of the sofa sat a delicious two-year-old who happily climbed all over her the second she sat down. And then she saw him, the catch—the gorgeous Hamish Adams.
Phew—I don’t tend to write from my male character’s point of view, but for this story I made an exception.
My heroine in this book, Charlotte Porter, is an amazing woman who spun into my imagination. Rather than try to fathom her out and then translate her, I decided it might be better to let my hero, Hamish (okay, he’s not
hero, he’s Charlotte’s), work to get to know her alongside the reader.
I confess to a few giggles as I wrote—perhaps because I knew what was happening—and more than a few tears for the very same reason.
I hope you love the story as much as I do.
Breezing into the examination cubicle, Charlotte’s wide smile never moved an inch as two scowling faces turned around at the sound of her cheerful voice.
A child who wasn’t particularly beautiful.
And a man who most definitely was.
‘I wasn’t talking about him!’ Charlotte’s dark curls danced in their ponytail as she gestured towards the doctor in the corner, watching, as the pinched little face of her patient delivered one of his very rare smiles. A smile so bright, so wide, that it ought to be utilised more.
‘I’m Charlotte, by the way,’ she added to the other scowling face, as she checked little Andy’s IV site and recorded his hourly observations. ‘Charlotte Porter.’
‘Hamish,’ he responded, barely looking up as he wrote out an X-ray request. ‘Hamish Adams.’
was the famous Hamish, Charlotte thought, sneaking a surreptitious glance at his name tag and then at the man himself.
Hamish Adams—Emergency Consultant.
Since she’d started here in Emergency two weeks ago, his name had cropped up a million and one times.
“Hamish likes it done this way.”
“Hamish insists on that.”
Hamish, Hamish Hamish…
And here was the man himself—and
nice he was, too. Tall but not too tall, Charlotte decided, trying not to get caught peeking! Slightly damp, jet hair flopped over his forehead as he resumed writing, and those hazel eyes that had briefly looked over as she’d walked into the cubicle had had her heart rate accelerating a touch. Dressed in theatre blues topped with a rather shabby white coat, he’d clearly not long rolled out of bed. His scowling face was unshaven and he smothered a yawn as he filled out some X-ray and blood request forms. Still, even if he hadn’t had time for shave, he’d clearly hit the shower this morning, and it wasn’t just his damp hair that gave him away—he had that nice
smell about him, which added just a touch of pink to Charlotte’s cheeks when he next spoke. ‘I want Andy to have erect and supine abdo X-rays and then some more bloodwork.’ Hamish peered at his watch. ‘It isn’t urgent, though—I’ll draw the blood now and get it off, but he can wait another hour or so till X-Ray opens at nine. If you go round with him, can you ask the radiographer to pull his old films—?’
‘I’m going off duty in a moment,’ Charlotte responded, taking the slips, ‘but I’ll certainly pass your orders on for you. Right, Andy, I just popped in to say goodbye—I’ll check the admission book when I come in later in the week and see where you ended up.’
‘Will you come and see me on the ward if I’m still here in the hospital?’
‘Absolutely.’ Charlotte grinned but it faded a touch as she saw Hamish’s frown, wondering what she must have said to offend him. Emergency nurses often popped up to the wards to catch up on patients—it was the only continuity offered to them. Andy had presented in the newly named Northern District Emergency Department at 4:00 a.m. after a night of crying with abdominal pain. What made his presentation a concern, though, was that it was his third in the last two months and, having read his notes and spoken at length with his exhausted mother and Andy himself, there was a big unvoiced question as to whether Andy was actually ill or struggling from the effects of severe teasing at school.
If a touch of extra attention helped, then Charlotte was more than happy to give it—whatever Hamish Adams thought!
It wasn’t Charlotte’s offer to catch up with her patient that had Hamish frowning, though—it was confusion. He could have sworn she’d just come
duty rather than going off! She was just so bright, and fresh,
unlike most people at the end of an eleven-hour shift.
So unlike most people, Hamish was about to find out.
‘Where on earth did you get these?’ She stared in mock horror at the X-ray and blood request forms he had given her. ‘Don’t you know these are banned!’
‘These forms, they say Camberfield General—didn’t anyone think to tell you about the name change?’
He gave a dry smile at her sarcasm. Since its inception Hamish felt as if he’d been sitting in meetings for ever—it was almost
spoken about. Camberfield sat a couple of hours from the city of Melbourne—a delightful semi-rural town that had all the benefits of being close enough to be able to get to the city but still untouched enough to completely escape it. The hospital had served both the local and wider community well, but in a bureaucratic attempt to
patients’ access to facilities, someone, somewhere, at some point in time had come up with the
idea of closing down a few scattered cottage hospitals and upgrading Camberfield General—so that they were now a major trauma centre, covering such a vast area that Hamish had, in one of the meetings, made the rather surly suggestion that the patients be offered a rewards programme for all the hours they’d spend stuck in planes or helicopters just to get to hospital!
‘I’m sure the radiographer and haematologist won’t mi—’
‘Oh, but they will!’ Charlotte interrupted, and put on a very formal voice as she quoted the latest memo that had been handed out. ‘Staff are again reminded that
procedures will be undertaken unless the correct patient requests forms are filled in. So,’ she said, reverting to her more usual, cheery voice, ‘you’d better write them all out again. But first you’d better empty out your pockets.’
‘I’ll throw them out later.’
‘You won’t.’ Charlotte shook her head. ‘You’ll mean to, of course, but the next thing you know you’ll have your poor patient being wheeled out of X-Ray minus a film. We’ve all been caught out with that one—and, anyway, they’re
to be thrown out. We’ve been told they’re to be cut into little squares and made into scrap paper…’He blinked as she snapped her fingers. ‘Come on—hand it all over!’
He was about to tell this nurse
where to take her strange humour, but as the little boy he had barely managed to extricate two words from during his examination started to actually giggle, even Hamish managed a smile as he played along and handed over the pads.
‘All of it!’ Charlotte warned. And, like a teenager caught smoking, he dug into his white coat pockets and handed over all the paraphernalia that filled them—CT request slips, MRI imaging…Pad after pad came out. In fact, the only reason Hamish still wore a white coat was because the pockets were incredibly deep. ‘I know it’s hard to let go, but you’ll thank me for this in the end.’
‘Show the doctor the face!’ Andy giggled, a different boy from the one Hamish had just examined.
,’ Charlotte said firmly, was for your eyes only!’ He watched in surprise as this confident woman actually blushed and suddenly busied herself tucking the blanket tighter around her patient.
‘Show him!’ Andy begged, then looked over at Hamish. ‘Charlotte was picked on when she was my
age!’ This most reticent patient was opening up like a flower in the sun now that Charlotte was in the cubicle. Realising that more could be achieved in the next couple of minutes than any examination he might order, Hamish actually clicked off his pen and hung the notes at the end of the trolley, raising an eyebrow at the mysterious Charlotte and not believing it for a second. Nothing in her confident, outgoing demeanour indicated a damaged childhood—
, Hamish rather reluctantly noted, there was nothing in her striking looks that would make her a target for the hell inflicted by school bullies. Her long, dark mass of curls had, at some point, been scooped up into a ponytail, but nothing was going to contain them. Chocolate-brown ringlets were popping out everywhere, and her cornflower-blue eyes were as vivid and bright as her smile.
Surely she’d have been the most popular girl in the school, Hamish thought, only Charlotte was sticking to her story.
‘Really!’ Charlotte nodded. ‘Mercilessly, actually. I lived for the bell at three-thirty so I could go home—well, four o’clock actually.’
‘Did they tease you while you waited for your mum?’
‘I got the school bus.’ Charlotte gave a dramatic sigh. ‘Unfortunately so did the rest of them.’
‘They called her Hop-Along,’ Andy explained to an intrigued Hamish.
‘Did they, now?’ He still didn’t believe her for a second, but was delighted to see his patient teetering on
the edge of revealing a painful part of himself. ‘Well, that can’t have been very nice. Do the kids call you names at school, too, Andy?’
‘All the time.’ Andy gave a small shrug but it was loaded with pain, his voice fading, hands pleating the sheet as he stared down at them.
‘Sucks, doesn’t it?’ Charlotte offered—which probably wouldn’t have been his choice of words, but they clearly summed up how Andy felt because finally he nodded, a fat tear rolling down his cheek as for the first time he admitted to a grown-up what had been happening.
‘They all hate me.’
‘Because they don’t know you,’ Charlotte said gently as Hamish watched on—a tiny tickle at the back of his throat as he watched this little guy who had been through so much in his short life being gently guided by this incredibly perceptive nurse. And whether she was telling the truth or not, it really didn’t matter—she was everything this little boy needed right now. ‘All they see is the glasses and your poor skin…’ She reached out and stroked his arm, raw red and silver with one the of the worst cases of psoriasis he’d ever seen in a child—and adult too, come to that—but her touch wasn’t just about compassion, it was showing the little boy, as his peers didn’t, that he wasn’t infectious or
, giving him the necessary human contact he so frequently missed out on.
‘They say I’m thick—that I was born dumb.’
‘They’re the stupid ones, then,’ Charlotte said firmly. ‘They’re the ones who don’t know what they’re talking
about. Lots of famous people have dyslexia—though off the top of my head I can’t think of one.’
‘Da Vinci!’ Hamish offered.
‘Who?’ Andy frowned.
‘Don’t worry, honey.’ She shot a thanks but, no, thanks glance at Hamish. I’ll find out some names of people with dyslexia that you actually know, but there are lots and I promise that if you keep trying, one day you’ll work out how to deal with all of this…’ Thick, hot tears were coursing down his cheeks now and she scooped him into a hug. ‘You truly will! I never thought I’d get rid of my eye patch,’ she said. ‘I thought I’d have it for ever and ever—but things change, they really do. And when you’re happier in yourself, let me tell you,
changes—even your skin will start to improve…’
‘You reckon?’ Andy sniffed.
‘I’m positive, but even if it doesn’t, you’ll be too busying having fun to notice! But first you’ve got to get happy here…’ She touched his little chest and Hamish made no move to speak—nothing he could say now could make a dent in what Charlotte was saying.
‘Is it really that easy?’
‘Oh, it’s not easy to be happy.’ Charlotte shook her head and smiled down at him. ‘It takes a lot of work—but the more you practice, the easier it gets.’
‘They tease me all the time!’ Andy looked over at Hamish. ‘Just like they teased Charlotte—they called her Dumbo as well because one of her ears stuck out…and her teeth!’ he added. ‘Please, Charlotte, show him the face.’
Despite Hamish’s rather astonishing good looks—despite the fact she’d heard something from the other staff about him being single, or rather widowed—wowing him with first impressions and a quick flirt had never been Charlotte’s intention when she’d stepped in the cubicle—but to have the opportunity so cruelly obliterated, to be begged to show herself to this rather fabulous man in such a tragic light wasn’t an opportunity she was keen to grab and run with. But looking at Andy’s eager face, seeing him blink expectantly behind his thick glasses, his little hand scratching a large angry patch on his arm, Charlotte swallowed her mortification. With a groan of submission, she popped her hand behind her left ear in a practised move till it was waving like the said Dumbo, stuck out her top teeth and let her left eye roll inwards, just as she had a few hours earlier, but, Hamish noted, instead of collapsing back on the pillow in peals of laughter, as most eight-year-olds would, Andy turned a rather eager face to his doctor.
‘See!’ he exclaimed. ‘Charlotte was
ugly and she’s beautiful now, isn’t she?’ Not quite so unlike most eight-year-olds, Hamish noted dryly to himself—young Andy was more than capable of very direct and rather inappropriate observations. ‘Isn’t she beautiful?’ Andy demanded.
‘Er, yes…’ Hamish nodded, giving a small cough. ‘Charlotte, might I have a quick word outside before you go off duty? Andy…’ As Charlotte gratefully ducked out of the cubicle he gave her a few seconds’ grace to fan her flaming cheeks as he spoke to his patient. ‘I’ll be back in to speak to you shortly.’
He joined Charlotte. ‘Thanks for that.’ He didn’t really look at her as he spoke. ‘I know you should have finished your shift ages ago.’
‘I don’t mind—it’s just good that he’s talking.’
‘It’s a start.’ Hamish nodded. ‘I’ve seen Andy on his last couple of admissions with abdominal pain but have barely been able to get two words out of him. I strongly suspected, though, that bullying might be if not all of his problem then at least a significant part of it. Did you speak to his mother?’
‘For a little while,’ Charlotte said. ‘She’s breastfeeding a new baby so she’s had to pop home. She said that he’s always struggled to fit and been teased, but in the last few weeks he’s been coming home with dirty clothes, his glasses were broken last week, that’s why he’s wearing those awful things, though Andy insists he fell over…’ She gave a small shake of her head at the improbability. ‘I think the teasing might be turning physical…’
‘Bastards!’ Hamish responded, and maybe it was a touch inappropriate, but this was emergency and, the world over, emergency staff didn’t hold back on speaking their minds—it was the only thing that kept them sane. But, instead of agreeing with him as most emergency nurses would have, instead of adding a caustic comment of her own, he was more than a touch taken back when Charlotte let out a small smile.