Authors: MacKenzie McKade
Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #Contemporary, #Fiction
Holding a knife against a child’s throat isn’t exactly how Dr. Paige Weston had planned to spend her Christmas holiday. But a jolt from an air pocket and here she is, performing an emergency tracheotomy as her flight to Fiji diverts to Kauai. The one place she swore never to return.
Beside the fact her patient comes first, what’s the chance she’ll run into her ex-fiancé—the man who jilted her when another woman turned up pregnant? Then she realizes the island hospital is woefully understaffed, forcing her to lend a hand. And upping the odds that her heart will hit more turbulence before she makes her escape.
Nathan Cross can’t believe his eyes. The emergency room doctor tending to his daughter’s cut foot is the woman he’s dreamed about every night since he was forced to walk out of her life. He should have been prepared for her indifference, but he’s blindsided by the need to hold her in his arms. Just one more time.
Yet Fate is a trickster, leaving him wondering if he should grasp for a second chance…or take his punishment for one, long-ago choice.
Warning: This book contains two lovers destined to make up for lost time, which means moments of deep emotional and hot lusty sex, including in such places as against the wall, up against a railing (my personal favorite), on the hood of a truck, in the rain, and every other imaginable place.
They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520
Macon GA 31201
Merry Christmas, Paige
Copyright © 2009 by Mackenzie McKade
Edited by Sasha Knight
Cover by Scott Carpenter
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: December 2009
Merry Christmas, Paige
To my wonderful critique partner, Sharis Mayer, who makes sure I dot each “I” and cross every “T”. To Kimber Osborne, Janet Reeves and Denise McClain for their expertise in the field of flight and medicine, and a special thank you to Ann Blackwood who introduced me to the beauty and legend of the naupaka flower. Thank you all!
Holding a sharp razor against a child’s throat wasn’t exactly how Dr. Paige Weston had expected to spend her Christmas holiday. Her hand trembled slightly. She fought to find her center through the worried cries of the boy’s grandmother and the whispers of onlookers.
An airplane sucked as an operating room. So did the rudimentary instruments the flight attendant provided, but they would have to do. A calming breath helped steady her grip. She placed the blade against the child’s delicate skin and began to press down. Without warning, the airplane bounced and dipped, knocking her sideways. She jerked her hand away. Her pulse raced. Nervous chatter filled the cabin as her stomach knotted.
“Dear God.” She shot a desperate glance to the dark-haired flight attendant connected to Med-Link and the pilot. “Hold this airplane steady or—” The terror in Landon’s grandmother’s expression stopped Paige mid-sentence. The flight attendant who stood beside the woman didn’t appear much better. She had turned as white as a sheet.
Slowly Paige exhaled and took a moment to gather her wits.
Time was ticking. Had it already been two minutes since Landon had fallen unconscious?
Steady or not, she couldn’t wait any longer.
A thin line of blood swelled as she cut from left to right to expose the underlying membrane. A gasp rose from behind Paige, followed by a sickening thud as someone hit the floor hard.
. Could anything else go wrong?
Paige blocked out the sound of hastened footsteps. A metallic scent touched her nose as she eased the razor deeper through membrane. Without being told, Joe, the flight attendant assisting her, dabbed at the blood with a gauze pad.
She pried the half-inch incision wide with two gloved fingers. “Tube.”
Concern tugged at Joe’s brows as he handed her the small piece of tube from the oropharyngeal kit. “Will he be okay?”
Paige didn’t respond because she didn’t know. The toy lodged in Landon’s esophagus would have to be surgically removed. There was nothing she could do without a hospital, if she could even get the child to breathe again.
Easing the tube into the tracheal opening, she jabbed her free hand toward the flight attendant. “Tape.”
Joe responded efficiently. As soon as she secured one piece of tape he had another waiting. When she was sure the tube wouldn’t move, she grabbed the stethoscope hanging around her neck and pressed the end to the boy’s bare chest to listen.
, she silently prayed.
Seconds passed and nothing. She had never lost a patient, and this was a hell of a time to start.
Was that a low whistle? She tensed, listening.
The first gush of air the child inhaled was followed by one of her own. The soft breath of life brought tears to her eyes and sent chills across her arms and legs. It was the sweetest sound she had ever heard. She attempted to blink away the emotion and focus on her patient’s heartbeat, but her vision blurred momentarily.
A strong, steady rhythm echoed in her ears. The boy’s eyelids fluttered open, and she swallowed her gasp of happiness.
A smile slid across her face. “Hey, little man.”
Several sighs of relief and even cheering rose from the onlookers, showing their support that Landon lived. When he became aware of the discomfort and the fact he couldn’t speak, his eyes widened with panic. He attempted to jerk into a sitting position, but Paige eased him back down.
“You need to hold still, honey.” Gently, she stroked his unruly brown hair. “Try not to speak. I know it hurts, but I promise you’ll be fine in no time.” Her voice seemed to calm him, so she began to sing like her own mother had done when Paige was a child. “Hush, little baby, don’t you cry…”
The captain’s voice came over the speaker, but she remained focused on her patient. She continued to soothe the boy, when Joe leaned closer. “We need to prepare the cabin for landing, but I’ll stay with you if you need my assistance.”
She stopped singing, but not the glide of her fingers through the child’s hair. “I think we’ll be fine.” And for once she was right.
Landon remained quiet as the airplane began a diagonal approach. It was amazing how quickly the jet descended from the sky. No one seemed to notice the steep decline until the landing gears grinded like fingernails down a chalkboard. Within minutes the jet’s tires touched ground. The jarring force threw Paige forward. She braced her palms on the floor to keep from falling, barely succeeding as the airplane rolled down the runway. Several mild jerks ensued before the aircraft finally came to a complete stop.
All at once the flight attendants began to move. In seconds the hatch was opened and emergency personnel entered with a stretcher.
“Dr. Weston,” a young EMT said, kneeling beside her. “Would you like me to take over?”
“Yes. Thank you.” She tugged off a glove, turning the latex inside out. Her job was done here. As she pushed to her feet, a sharp pang radiated heat across her lower back. The burning sensation was almost forgotten when the gurney passed by her, and Landon reached out and clutched her hand. Uncertainty and fear tightened his features. She attempted to ease her hand out of his, but he wouldn’t release her.
Dammit. She had no resistance when it came to children. Their innocence, the way they trusted and accepted so freely, had always moved her. That’s why she had chosen to become a pediatrician.
The EMT must have understood the struggle she fought, because he said, “You know it isn’t protocol for you to accompany us.”
The child squeezed Paige’s hand again and her heart melted. Who could say no to a face like that?
After she ensured he was out of the woods she could take the next airplane to Fiji, where she had planned to celebrate Christmas with her mother and younger sister, Susan. Truth was, Paige felt responsible for the child. Leaving him without knowing the outcome would have been difficult anyway.
“Dr. Weston, if you’re going with us we need to leave now,” the EMT said.
She patted Landon’s hand with her other one. “It’s okay. I’ll go with you, but you have to let me go so we can fit through the door.” A tear slid from his eye. Reluctantly, he released her.
As she stepped upon the stairs leading to the tarmac, a brisk wind tossed her long blonde hair around her shoulders. The sweet scent of flowers rose against the orange and red sunset that fanned across a graying sky. Déjà vu struck so hard she nearly missed the last step. She swayed, grappling to find her footing. Before she could shake the feeling, one of the EMTs called her name. “The hospital recommends you ride in back with us and Mrs. Buchman up front with the driver.”
Paige climbed in the back of the ambulance and took a seat on the bench. Immediately the child grabbed her hand.
“I’m Scott,” the EMT on the radio with the hospital offered. “This is Vic.” The twenty-something man who adjusted Landon’s IV line looked up and smiled just as the sirens blared and the vehicle jerked forward.
The airport was a blur as they rushed past it. Looking out the window, Paige ran one moist palm down her faded jeans and gave her T-shirt a tug. “I don’t recall Honolulu’s airport being so small when we touched down to pick up passengers. It looked larger.”
“Pretty hectic on the plane, was it?” Vic’s question drew her attention away from the window.
“Yes.” An emergency tracheotomy on an airplane was a first for her.
Mischief twinkled in his eyes.
“What?” she asked. She could use a good laugh about now.
“You don’t know where you are?”
“Of course, Honolulu.” It only made sense that they would return from where they had previously landed.
“Nope. Welcome to Kauai.”
Panic rose fast, icing her veins. Every bone in her body froze. She sucked in a tight breath. Maybe she hadn’t heard him correctly. “Kauai?”
He pressed a stethoscope to Landon’s chest. “Yep.”
“Oh God. I thought we were heading back to Honolulu.” She briefly closed her eyes and fought the sudden queasiness. This couldn’t be happening. Kauai was one place she had sworn never to return to.
“There’s been a cruise ship accident. The hospitals on all the islands are packed, including ours,” Scott offered.
Her stomach pitched.
“Dr. Weston, are you okay?” he asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
She opened her eyes, but the memory of a sandy beach and the man who had broken her heart remained. The lump in her throat grew larger, but she managed a weak, “I’m fine.” But she wasn’t. Her whole body was one twisted knot.
It took her a moment to pull herself together. Besides, what were the odds that she’d run into Nathan on this island again? Sure, his parents owned an island just east of Kauai called Lotus Point. Even if he was in the vicinity, he would be on their family island—him, his wife and the child that should have been his and Paige’s.
The thought struck like a dagger ripping through her chest. She flinched as the old wound tore wide open to steal her breath. How could it be that it felt like just yesterday Nathan had walked out on her, instead of five years?
A light squeeze of her hand pulled her out of the memory that threatened to consume her. She gazed down at the small hand holding hers, and then into the innocent eyes filled with concern.
You’re being ridiculous
, she silently chastised herself.
Ridiculous or not, Kauai was the last place she wanted to be.
When she had her emotions intact she forced a smile for the child. “What a good boy.” She brushed damp hair from his forehead, and he relaxed beneath her touch.
Right now what she needed to do was focus on her patient. She would worry about getting the hell off this island later.
The trip to Wilcox Memorial took only five minutes, even with slowing down for red lights. On their approach, the siren was silenced. They pulled before the entrance where a team of medical personnel waited. When the ambulance stopped, the back doors of the vehicle swung wide. Immediately, Scott began to update a male nurse, while Vic worked with the others in attendance to unload Landon. The gurney wheels touched asphalt, and Paige and Landon’s grandmother had to pick up the pace to keep up. The glass doors slid open, and she stepped inside to be assailed with cries and moans and the all-too-familiar antiseptic smell.
Lord, help them. The EMT had been right. The noise level bordered on offensive as medical personnel rushed in opposite directions. Thankfully, a surgical unit awaited Landon. Without delay, he was ushered through a pair of double doors.
Paige and Landon’s grandmother didn’t have to wait long before a nurse approached them. “Are you with the boy from the airplane?” The badge on her blue scrubs identified her as Cathy. By her dark skin and hair, she looked to be an islander.
“Yes. I’m Nancy Buchner, Landon’s grandmother.”
Cathy smiled. “Let me show you where the waiting room is. Admittance will be in to speak to you shortly.”
When the nurse started down the hall, Nancy yelled, “Wait.” She quickly moved toward Paige. “I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done.”
“You’re welcome.” Paige reached out and squeezed Nancy’s arm. “He’ll be fine. You’ll see.”
Nancy gave her a hug and then left with the nurse, while Paige remained behind. Paige looked around the busy ER room, locating a chair that was out of the way of the hustle and bustle. Next to the seat a colorfully lit Christmas tree blinked off and on. She sat down, and the light scent of evergreen tickling her nose reminded her that in less than a week it would be Christmas. Beneath the lower branches of the tree, neatly wrapped presents in cheery paper and big bows lay as if waiting for a cozy little family to open them.
A pang struck her chest. She swallowed hard, attempting to dash the image of a cozy family, mainly Nathan’s, and focus on lying on the beaches of Fiji and soaking up the sun. Yep. Two wonderful weeks with her mother and sister. How pitiful did that make her sound?
Someone screamed in the room next to her and she startled. Her nerves crawled further out on the edge. What she’d give to speak to her mother.
Crap. Paige released a huff of disbelief. Her damn purse was still on the airplane along with all her luggage. Nothing she could do about it this late at night.
This was going to be a long evening.
The minutes ticked by. Patients came and went. Several times Paige started to offer her assistance, but thought better of interfering.
A gray-haired man dressed in green scrubs and a surgical cap passed by the nurses’ station heading straight for her. Slowly she got to her feet. Apprehension slithered up her spine. Dammit. Landon had to be okay. Her palms were clammy. She wiped them on her jeans just as the doctor stopped before her.
The doctor opened his hand, and in his palm he held a little red fire truck. “Here’s your culprit. Wouldn’t think something so small could cause such a fuss, would you?”
No, she sure wouldn’t. Nor would she have guessed that when she got up this morning that her perfectly planned vacation would have taken the detour it had. Somewhere over the ocean an airplane was heading to Fiji and she wasn’t on it.
“I’m Dr. Waters. Your patient is doing fine. He’s in recovery. You saved that little boy’s life.”
Paige wasn’t looking for praise. She worried more about the short time Landon had gone without oxygen. “A full recovery?”
“Yes. Thanks to you.”
She exhaled a sigh of relief. “Good.”
They shook hands, and Dr. Waters pivoted to leave, before stopping short. He glanced over a shoulder. “Don’t imagine that you’d like to give us a hand in the emergency room? The cruise ship accident has left us in a bind. We’re short a doctor and have one on vacation.”
She didn’t even pause. “Of course, it would be my pleasure, but I don’t know when the next flight to Fiji might leave.”
“I’ll have someone check for you.” He returned to place his palm on the small of her back and guide her toward the nurses’ station. “I don’t know if you are aware, but Wilcox Memorial is a leading medical facility and one of the top one hundred rural hospitals in the United States. Who knows, by the end of the night you might even want to join us. You know, we have an opening.” He winked.