Authors: Carol Marinelli
‘A compelling, sensual, sexy, emotionally packed, drama-filled read that will leave you begging for more!’
—Contemporary Romance Reviews
on NYC ANGELS: REDEEMING THE PLAYBOY
do me a favour?’
Anton Rossi’s long, brisk stride was broken by the sound of Louise’s voice.
He had tried very hard not to notice her as he had stepped into the maternity unit of The Royal in London, though, of course, he had.
Louise was up a stepladder and putting up Christmas decorations. Her skinny frame was more apparent this morning as she was dressed in very loose, navy scrubs with a long-sleeved, pale pink top worn underneath. Her blonde hair was tied in a high ponytail and she had layer after layer of tinsel around her neck.
She was also, Anton noted, by far too pale.
Yes, whether he had wanted to or not, he had noticed her.
He tended to notice Louise Carter a lot.
‘What is it that you want?’ Anton asked, as he reluctantly turned around.
‘In that box, over there …’ Louise raised a slender arm and pointed it towards the nurses’ station ‘… there’s some gold tinsel.’
He just stood there and Louise wondered if possibly he didn’t understand what she was asking for.
‘Tin-sel …’ she said slowly, in the strange attempt at an Italian accent that Louise did now and then when she was trying to explain a word to him. Anton watched in concealed amusement as she jiggled the pieces around her neck. ‘Tin-sel, go-o-old.’
Louise gave up on her accent. ‘Could you just get it for me? I’ve run out of gold.’
‘I’m here to check on Hannah Evans.’
‘It will only take you a second,’ Louise pointed out. ‘Look, if I get down now I’ll have to start again.’ Her hand was holding one piece of gaudy green tinsel to the tired maternity wall. ‘I’m trying to make a pattern.’
, full stop,’ Anton said, and walked off.
‘Bah, humbug,’ Louise called to his departing shoulders.
Anton, had moved to London from Milan and, having never spent a Christmas in England, would have to find out later what that translated as but he certainly got the gist.
Yes, he wasn’t exactly in the festive spirit. For the last few years Anton had, in fact, dreaded Christmas.
Unfortunately there was no escaping it at The Royal—December had today hit and there were invites galore for Christmas lunches, dinners and parties piling into his inbox that he really ought to attend. Walking into work this morning, he had seen a huge Christmas tree being erected in the hospital foyer and now Louise had got in on the act. She seemed to be attempting to singlehandedly turn the maternity ward into Santa’s grotto.
reluctantly, he headed over to the
box, retrieved a long piece of gold tinsel and returned to Louise, who gave him a sweet smile as she took it.
Actually, no, Anton decided, it was far from a sweet smile—it was a slightly sarcastic, rather triumphant smile.
‘Thank you very much,’ Louise said.
‘You’re more than welcome,’ Anton responded, and walked off.
Anton knew, just knew that if he turned around it would be to the sight of Louise poking her tongue out at him.
Keep going, he told himself.
Do not turn around, for it would just serve to encourage her and he was doing everything in his power to discourage Louise. She was the most skilled flirt he had ever come across. At first he has assumed Louise was like that with everyone—it had come as a disconcerting, if somewhat pleasant surprise to realise that the blatant flirting seemed to be saved solely for him.
Little known to Louise, he enjoyed their encounters, not that he would ever let on.
Ignore her, Anton told himself.
Yet he could not.
Anton turned to the sight of Louise on the stepladder, tongue out, fingers up and well and truly caught!
Louise actually froze for a second, which was very unfortunate, given the gesture she was making, but then she unfroze as Anton turned and walked back towards her. A shriek of nervous laughter started to pour from Louise because, from the way that Anton was walking, it felt as if he might be about to haul her from the ladder and over his shoulder. Wouldn’t that be nice? both simultaneously thought, but instead he came right
up to her, his face level with her groin, and looked up into china-blue eyes as she looked down at the sexiest, most aloof, impossibly arrogant man to have ever graced The Royal.
‘I got you your tinsel.’ Anton pointed at her and his voice was stern but, Louise noted, that sulky mouth of his was doing its level best not to smile.
‘Yes, Anton, you did,’ Louise said, wondering if he could feel the blast of heat coming from her loins. God knew, he was miserable and moody but her body responded to him as if someone had just thrown another log on the fire whenever he was around.
On many levels he annoyed her—Anton checked and re-checked everything that she did, as if she was someone who had just wandered in from the street and offered to help out for the day, rather than a qualified midwife. Yet, aside from their professional differences, he was as sexy as hell and the sparks just flew off the two of them, no matter how Anton might deny that they did.
‘So why this?’ Anton asked, and pulled a face and poked his tongue out at her, and Louise smiled at the sight of his tongue and screwed-up features as he mimicked her gestures. He was still gorgeous—olive-skinned, his black hair was glossy and straight and so well cut that Louise constantly had to resist running her hands through it just to see it messed up. His eyes were a very dark blue and she ached to see them smile, yet, possibly for the first time, while aimed at her, now they were.
Oh, his expression was cross but, Louise could just see, those eyes were finally smiling and so she took the opportunity to let him know a few home truths.
‘It’s the way that you do things, Anton.’ Louise attempted to explain. ‘Why couldn’t you just say, “Sure, Louise,” and go and get the tinsel?’
‘Because, as I’ve told you, I am on my way to see a patient.’
‘Okay, why didn’t you smile when you walked into the unit and saw the decorations that I’ve spent the last two hours putting up and say, “Ooh, that looks nice”?’
‘Truth?’ Anton said.
‘Truth.’ Louise nodded.
‘I happen to think that you have too many decorations …’ He watched her eyes narrow at his criticism. ‘You asked why I didn’t tell you how nice they looked.’
‘I did,’ Louise responded. ‘Okay, then, third question, why didn’t you say hello to me when you walked past?’
For Anton, that was the trickiest to answer. ‘Because I didn’t see you.’
‘Please!’ Louise rolled her eyes. ‘You saw me—you just chose to ignore me, as I’m going to choose to ignore your slight about my decorations. You can never have too much tinsel.’
‘Oh, believe me Louise, you can,’ Anton said, looking around. The corridor was a riot of red, gold and green tinsel stars. He looked up to where silver foil balloons hung from the ceilings. Then he looked down to plastic snowmen dancing along the bottom of the walls. Half of the windows to the patients’ rooms had been sprayed with fake snow. Louise had clearly been busy. ‘Nothing matches.’ Anton couldn’t help but smile and he
tried to help but smile! ‘You don’t have a theme.’
‘The theme is Christmas, Anton,’ Louise said in response. ‘I had a very tinsel-starved Christmas last year
and I intend to make up for it this one. I’m doing the nativity scene this afternoon.’
‘Good for you,’ Anton said, and walked off.
Louise didn’t poke out her tongue again and even if she had Anton wouldn’t have seen it because this time he very deliberately didn’t turn around.
He didn’t want to engage in conversation with Louise. He didn’t want to find out why she’d had a tinsel-starved Christmas the previous year.
Or rather he
want to find out.
Louise was flaky, funny, sexy and everything Anton did not need to distract him at work. He wasn’t here to make friends—his social life was conducted well away from the hospital walls. Anton did his level best to keep his distance from everyone at work except his patients.
‘Hannah.’ He smiled as he stepped into the four-bedded ward but Hannah didn’t smile back and Anton pulled the curtains around her bed before asking his patient any questions. ‘Are you okay?’ Anton checked.
‘I’m so worried.’
‘Tell me,’ Anton offered.
‘I’m probably being stupid, I know, but Brenda came in this morning and I said the baby had moved and I’m sure that it did, but it hasn’t since then.’
‘So you’re lying here, imagining the worst?’
‘Yes,’ Hannah admitted. ‘It’s taken so long to get here that I’m scared something’s going to go wrong now.’
‘I know how hard your journey has been,’ Anton said. Hannah had conceived by IVF and near the end of a tricky pregnancy she had been brought in for bed rest as her blood pressure was high and the baby’s amniotic fluid was a little on the low side. Anton specialised in
high-risk pregnancies and so he was very comfortable listening to Hannah’s concerns.
‘Let me have a feel,’ Anton said. ‘It is probably asleep.’
For all he was miserable with the staff and kept himself to himself, Anton was completely lovely and open with his patients. He had a feel of Hannah’s stomach and then took out a Doppler machine and had a listen, locating the heartbeat straight away. ‘Beautiful,’ Anton said, and they listened for a moment. ‘Have you had breakfast?’ Anton asked, because if Hannah had low blood sugar, that could slow movements down.
‘How many movements are you getting?’
‘I felt one now,’ Hanna said.
‘That’s because I just nudged your baby awake when I was feeling your stomach.’
He sat going through her charts. Hannah’s blood pressure was at the higher limits of normal and Anton wondered for a long moment how best to proceed. While the uterus was usually the best incubator, there were times when the baby was safest out. He had more than a vested interested in this pregnancy and he told Hannah that. ‘Do you know you will be the first patient that I have ever helped both to conceive through IVF
deliver their baby?’
‘No.’ Hannah frowned. ‘I thought in your line of work that that would happen to you all the time.’
‘No.’ Anton shook his head. ‘Remember how upset you were when I first saw you because the doctor you had been expecting was sick on the day of your egg retrieval?’
Hannah nodded and actually blushed. ‘I was very rude to you.’
‘Because you didn’t want a locum to be taking over your care.’ Anton smiled. ‘And that is fair enough. In Italy I used to do obstetrics but then I moved into reproductive endocrinology and specialised there. In my opinion you can’t do both simultaneously, they are completely different specialties—you have to always be available for either. I only helped out that week because Richard was sick. I still cover very occasionally to help out and also because I like to keep up to date but in truth I cannot do both.’
‘So how come you moved back to obstetrics?’
‘I missed it,’ Anton admitted. ‘I do like the fertility side of things and I do see patients where that is their issue but if they need IVF then I refer them. Obstetrics is where I prefer to be.’
The movements were slowing down. Anton could see that and with her low level of amniotic fluid, Hannah would be more aware than most of any movement. ‘I think your baby might be just about cooked,’ Anton said, and then headed out of the ward and asked Brenda to come in. ‘I’m just going to examine Hannah,’ Anton said, and spoke to both women as he did so. ‘Your cervix is thinning and you’re already three centimetres dilated.’ He looked at Brenda. ‘Kicks are down from yesterday.’
Anton had considered delivering Hannah last night and now, with the news that the kicks were down combined with Hannah’s distress, he decided to go ahead this morning.
‘I think we’ll get things started,’ Anton said.
‘Yes.’ Anton nodded and he explained to Hannah his reasoning. ‘We’ve discussed how your placenta is coming
to the end of its use-by date. Sometimes the baby does better on the outside than in and I think we’ve just reached that time.’ He let it sink in for a moment. ‘I’ll start a drip, though we’ll just give you a low dose to help move things along.’
Hannah called her husband and Anton spoke with Brenda at the nurses’ station, then Hannah was taken around to the delivery ward.
All births were special and precious but Anton had been concerned about Hannah for a couple of weeks as the baby was a little on the small side. Anton would actually be very relieved once this baby was out.
By the time he had set up the drip and Hannah was attached to the baby monitor, with Luke, her husband, by her side, Anton was ready for a coffee break. He checked on another lady who would soon deliver and then he checked on his other patients on the ward.
Stephanie, another obstetrician, had been on last night and had handed over to him but, though Anton respected Stephanie, he had learnt never to rely on handovers. Anton liked to see for himself where his patients were and though he knew it infuriated some of the staff it was the way he now worked and he wasn’t about to change that.
Satisfied that all was well, he was just about to take himself to the staffroom when he saw Louise, still up that ladder, but she offered no snarky comment this time, neither were there any requests for assistance. Instead, she was pressing her fingers into her eyes and clearly felt dizzy.
Not my problem, Anton decided.
But, of course, it was.