Authors: Kate Hardy
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Harlequin Medical Romances
‘What you’re saying is, you told your grandmother you’re engaged…to me?’
‘Kirst, Gran’s ill. She wants to see me settled. I told her a white lie, that’s all.’
Kirsty snorted. ‘White lie? I think it’s a bit more than that.’
He shrugged. ‘I told her I’d met someone special, just to keep her happy. But she leapt to conclusions and thought I meant you. The longer it went on, the more elaborate the lies got—and the next thing I knew I’d told her we were engaged!’
‘Ben, have you considered that she might have angina, and that’s all? You’re a registrar in A and E—you see cases like that all the time. If she was seriously ill she’d tell you.’
‘All I want to do is make Gran happy. If it is more than angina, I don’t want her thinking I’m still drifting around. I’m asking you to do me a favour. Will you come with me to visit my grandmother as my fiancée?’
lives on the outskirts of Norwich with her husband, two small children, two lazy spaniels—and too many books to count! She wrote her first book at age six when her parents gave her a typewriter for her birthday. She had the first of a series of sexy romances published at age 25, and swapped a job in marketing communications for freelance health journalism when her son was born so she could spend more time with him. She’s wanted to write for Mills & Boon since she was twelve—and when she was pregnant with her daughter, her husband pointed out that writing Medical Romances would be the perfect way to combine her interest in health issues with her love of good stories. It really is the best of both worlds—especially as she gets to meet a new gorgeous hero every time…
HIS EMERGENCY FIANCÉE
stared at the letter in dismay. No. He couldn’t have read it right. He scanned it again—and then for a third time.
No, there was no mistake.
He closed his eyes. Kirsty was going to kill him. She’d never agree to help, not with this.
She was his only hope of getting out of this mess, so he’d have to pull out the stops. All of them. Thankfully, he was off duty today.
He picked up the phone, dialled a familiar number and crossed his fingers that one of the more sympathetic nurses on the surgical ward would answer.
* * *
Kirsty eased her shoulders as she walked down the path. Right now, all she wanted to do was have a long, deep bath, then sink in front of the sofa with some cheese on toast and an old film. Though, no doubt, Ben had already gone out, leaving the kitchen covered in crumbs, so she’d have to clear away all his mess before she could even fix herself some food. Not to mention clearing his papers from the table before she could sit down to eat.
Maybe it was time she sat down with him and hammered out a few ground rules. ‘Bit late after all these years, Kirst,’ she told herself wryly. Ben’s habits were firmly entrenched. ‘And that’s the first step to madness, talking to yourself,’ she added. ‘What you need is a cat.’ Though Ben wasn’t the real reason she was angry. That dubious honour belonged to her new boss, Guy Chambers. On second thoughts, she didn’t need a cat: a dog would be better. One with big teeth. And she could send him in the direction of her boss’s rear and see how
liked being nipped…
She unlocked the front door and stopped dead. There was music from the kitchen—so the light in the living room wasn’t just their mutually agreed burglar deterrent. Ben was home. Which meant he was entertaining.
She closed her eyes. That was all she needed—having to be polite to one of Ben’s women. Kirsty hadn’t met her but she already knew what the woman would be like—what
Ben’s women were like. Six inches taller than Kirsty’s five feet four, half a stone lighter, long blonde or red hair instead of short mouse brown, and big china-blue eyes instead of ordinary brown. Not to mention drop-dead gorgeous instead of plain and little.
Lucky that she was an expert at smash-and-grab. Into kitchen, make sandwich, smile politely, grab orange juice and choc bar from fridge, head for bathroom and long, long soak in bath. She could do it in two minutes flat.
She dropped her bag at the foot of the stairs and sidled to the kitchen. She couldn’t hear Ben talking to anyone. Hopefully that didn’t mean he was locked in a smooch. She rolled her eyes. She had to be the only female under seventy-five in the hospital who hadn’t fallen for Dr Charming. Ben had dark hair with a slight wave in it, huge cornflower blue eyes with unfairly long lashes contrasting sharply with his pale skin, fabulous bone structure and a megawatt smile. He could have been a TV doctor with those looks.
And he also happened to be her best friend as well as her housemate. So even if she hadn’t been so far out of his league in the looks department, he’d be off limits on two more counts. Besides, she didn’t think of him in
way. He was just Ben.
Steeling herself, she sauntered into the kitchen—and stopped dead. It
as if he was entertaining. Every surface gleamed, there was no clutter—probably all stashed under his bed and it’d be back in the morning—a Bach cello suite was playing softly, something smelt gorgeous enough to make her stomach rumble and Ben was sitting at the table set for two.
But there was no stunning blonde or redhead opposite him.
Maybe she’d gone to the bathroom.
‘Hi, Ben. I’ll be out of your way in two minutes,’ she said brightly.
‘Don’t be daft.’ He smiled at her. ‘Sit.’
‘I’ve had a hell of a day. I’m not up to socialising,’ she warned.
‘You don’t have to socialise with anyone, Kirst,’ he told her soothingly.
Like warm velvet, with just the hint of a Scots burr when he rolled his ‘r’s. Especially when it was accompanied by the smile that made you feel you were the most important person in the world. No wonder even the most difficult patient melted at Ben Robertson’s bedside manner. ‘But you’ve got someone round, haven’t you?’ She gestured to the table.
‘Actually, Kirst, I’m cooking for you.’
Her eyes narrowed. ‘Did you forget to pay the electricity bill or something?’
He laughed. ‘You’re such a cynic.’
‘No, I’ve known you since our first week at university,’ she retorted. They’d hit it off so well that when they’d ended up training in the same south coast hospital they’d agreed to share a house. She put up with the constant stream of Ben’s girlfriends, and he made sure she didn’t spend all her time at her books. The arrangement worked perfectly.
But it didn’t include Ben cooking her posh dinners.
What was he up to? A nasty thought made her stomach feel like lead. He wasn’t going to tell her he was moving out and getting married, was he? No, of course not. Ben’s women never lasted more than three dates—even the really nice ones. He couldn’t handle commitment.
Or had he met the right one at last?
She didn’t want to think about that. The way her job was shaping up was bad enough. For her home life to fall to pieces, too, was more than she could handle right now.
‘Kirst, you said yourself you’ve had a bad day. Sit down.’ He gave her a searching look. ‘Are you on call now?’
‘No.’ And the more time that passed without her seeing Guy Chambers, the better. If she could prevent any RTAs in a twenty-mile radius by sheer will-power, Southbay would have the lowest accident statistics ever for the next twenty years.
Something must have shown on her face because Ben looked, well, almost
, she thought. ‘It’s all right. I’m not going to savage
‘Good.’ He poured her a glass of wine. ‘Have a swig of this, then.’
She took a sip and closed her eyes. ‘Mmm. New World Merlot, unless I’m mistaken.’
‘Correct, Dr Brown.’ He smiled. ‘Give me three minutes and I’ll feed you.’
Kirsty watched him as he pulled the casserole dish out of the oven and ladled the contents onto two plates, added two jacket potatoes and a dollop of sour cream, sprinkled some chopped fresh parsley over the top, then pulled a bag of ready-prepared veg from the microwave, slit the bag and heaped them next to the potatoes.
It smelt good and it tasted even better. Particularly as she hadn’t had to cook it after a hard day at Jimmy’s, as all the staff called St James’s Hospital in Southbay. ‘Ben, this is fabulous. Thanks.’
‘Any time.’ He looked at her. ‘What’s happened?’
‘Nothing,’ she grumped, her mood deflating instantly as she thought about work. Work, and Guy Chambers.
‘Patient or colleague?’
‘Stop nagging, Robertson.’
He gave her his most charming smile. ‘OK. Eat first, then tell me.’
She gave a noncommittal murmur and continued eating.
Ben ate in silence, too, though he was feeling more and more edgy about what he had to tell her. Something had obviously gone badly wrong at work today and he had a nasty feeling his news was going to light the touch-paper. Something or someone had got under her skin and Kirsty hardly ever got rattled. She was plain-speaking, yes—what you saw was definitely what you got—but she was nice with it. She never really lost her temper.
Not even when it was deserved, he thought with a flash of guilt. He was one of the worst when it came to taking advantage of her good nature. When this was all over, he’d keep her in fresh roses and best Belgian chocolate for a
, he decided.
If she was still speaking to him.
He topped up her glass without comment, then took a tub of her favourite ice cream from the freezer, scooped out a huge bowlful, added the cannoli wafers he’d bought specially for her and presented the bowl with a bow.
Again, suspicion flashed over her face. ‘Whatever you’ve done, Ben, you might as well tell me n—’
‘Later,’ he broke in. ‘Tell me about your day first.’ And then he might chicken out of asking her. Maybe he could talk someone else into pretending to be Kirsty…
Though that wouldn’t work either. His grandmother already knew what Kirsty looked like. ‘Big list, was it?’ he asked.
‘Well, your lot kept us busy. An emergency appendix we caught just before it ruptured and one RTA with a punctured lung and more leaks than a colander.’ She ticked them off on her fingers. ‘One set of varicose veins to strip out. One patient booked in for a bypass who swears blind he’s given up smoking, even though you can smell it on his clothes and see the yellow stains on his fingers. And I know damned well he hasn’t listened to a word I’ve said and he’s going to go straight back to drinking too much, eating way too much saturated fat, smoking and taking no exercise. Another to sweet-talk into staying put for her bypass tomorrow because she’s terrified of going under the knife. A ton of paperwork. Oh, and meeting my new boss, Guy Chambers.’
The orange sparks in her eyes told him all he needed to know. Guy Chambers was the reason she was simmering. ‘Tony’s replacement?’
‘Tony’s replacement,’ she confirmed grimly.
‘What’s the problem?’
‘Let’s just say we’re not going to be each other’s favourite person.’
‘What’s so bad about him? I was in Resus when he did the rounds to meet everyone so I haven’t actually talked to him, but he’s got a good reputation.’
‘Ben, he’s a…he’s a…’ She scowled. ‘Well, if that’s what being a top surgeon does to you, I’m changing specialties. Starting tomorrow morning.’
His hands balled immediately into fists. ‘What’s he done to you, Kirst?’
She gave him an old-fashioned look. ‘I can handle it.’
‘I know.’ With three older brothers, Kirsty was more than able to stand up for herself. He knew that. Oddly, it didn’t stop him wanting to protect her.