Authors: Helen Scott Taylor
The Army Doctor's Baby
Helen Scott Taylor
Copyright © 2013 Helen Taylor
Cover design © Helen Taylor
The right of Helen Taylor to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
This is a work of fiction. All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author, and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Copyright owner.
Major Radley Knight opened his parents' front door and stepped into the peaceful sanctuary of Willow House. The familiar surroundings wrapped around him like a hug—the slightly frayed rug, the family photos on the wall, the wide staircase where he'd played as a boy. He dropped his bag, closed his eyes, and breathed in the familiar old-house smell. What a blessed relief to be back.
There had been many days in the last nine months when he'd dreamed of this quiet spot in the English countryside, of the peace and the safety he'd taken for granted. Endless days when his hands had been covered in blood and his head pounding from lack of sleep. Endless days when he feared every loud noise would herald a new group of casualties to the field hospital in Afghanistan where he'd been stationed.
That all seemed like another world now he was home, the only sounds here the rhythmic tick of the grandfather clock on the landing halfway up the stairs, and the clattering of his mother in the kitchen at the end of the hall.
Radley drew in a deep breath and released it slowly. At last he could chill out with no nasty surprises.
A mewling cry broke the silence. What the heck was that? An animal…no, he'd heard that sound before, but never in this house.
It was a baby.
Was his mother babysitting? He narrowed his eyes in thought, trying to guess whose baby it might be.
The cry sounded again, louder this time. A definite note of desperation in the high-pitched wail, as though the tiny infant were about to expire from hunger and needed sustenance stat. It compelled his feet to move towards the sound. He pushed open the sitting room door and glanced around.
A woman relaxed in the leather lounger by the French windows, a tiny bundle in her arms. Early morning sun slanted in, gleaming off her long dark hair, and turning the smooth skin of her bare breast above the baby's head pale, almost translucent.
The woman's head came up. Her blue eyes fixed on him, wide and inquiring. He stood transfixed by the sight of mother and child, a scene of such natural beauty it seemed surreal after the horrific things he'd witnessed recently.
She was stunning with luxuriant thick hair and brilliant sapphire eyes. He'd never seen her before. He would definitely have remembered. So, what was she doing in his parents' house?
"You must be Radley," she said, her voice pitched low so as not to disturb her baby.
"Yes," he muttered. She knew who he was. Why did he know nothing about her?
His mother's footsteps sounded on the wooden floor behind him. "Radley, darling, you're back. How wonderful. I didn't expect you until later."
He had to consciously drag his gaze away from the woman to look at his mother. "I jumped on a train as soon as we landed at Brize Norton. I just wanted to get home."
His gaze returned to the woman as if drawn against his will.
"Come and give me a hug," his mother said. "Don't stand there gawping at Olivia while she feeds George. Give the poor girl some privacy."
His mother closed the door and threw her arms around his neck. "It's so good to have you back safe and sound."
Radley blinked, trying to get his thoughts together. Being a doctor in the army, he was used to working long hours with little sleep. It went with the job. But he must be more tired than he'd thought because he felt dazed.
"Hello, Mum. It's good to see you." He kissed his mother as she ran an affectionate hand over his stubbly cheek.
"That's more like it. You looked as though you were in a trance just now. Come on, I'll make you some breakfast and you can tell me what you've been doing."
He followed his mother down the wood-paneled hall to the back of the house and settled on one of the chairs at the kitchen table. She cracked eggs into a pan and laid strips of bacon on the grill.
"Who is Olivia? I don't remember you mentioning her before."
"Yes, well, that was on purpose. I didn't want you to tell your brother."
"Why? What's she got to do with Cameron?"
His mother gave him a meaningful look over the top of her glasses and things started falling into place.
… Now he thought about it, Cameron had mentioned a girl with that name. She'd been his girlfriend in college. There had been some kind of falling-out when he split up with her, and Cameron had e-mailed Radley for advice.
"That's not the girl who claimed she was pregnant with Cam's baby?"
"She didn't just
to be pregnant. She
pregnant," his mother said, eyebrows raised. "You've just seen the evidence for yourself."
The woman had obviously wormed her way into his mother's good graces. Irritation raced along Radley's nerves. His mother was too softhearted for her own good. Olivia had probably realized Cameron's family had money and turned up on the doorstep with some sob story. He couldn't believe his father had been so easily suckered, though.
"For God's sake, Mum, just because she says Cam is the baby's father doesn't mean it's true. Have you had a DNA test done?"
His mother slammed a pan down on the kitchen counter with a bang that made him jump. "Don't you take
attitude, Radley Knight. I'm very unhappy with your brother for the way he's treated Olivia. I don't want you making matters worse. Just because your wife—"
"Ex-wife," he snapped.
"Just because your ex-wife did that to you, doesn't mean all women lie about who fathered their children. Olivia is a decent, honest girl."
Radley pressed his lips together to hold back his retort. Cameron had been certain he couldn't have made his girlfriend pregnant. He would take his brother's word over that of a woman any day, especially one who was obviously taking advantage of his mother's generous nature.
"What did she do, turn up at the door with a baby in her arms and beg you to take her in?"
"No, she did not!"
His mother dropped his plate of breakfast in front of him with a clatter. She frowned and Radley dug into his food, avoiding her glare.
"That wife of yours has a lot to answer for. You used to be kind and generous before she got her claws into you."
"Ex-wife," Radley said under his breath.
"Olivia called from the hospital, trying to contact Cameron. Of course I asked her why. When she told me, I went in to visit. It took me all of thirty seconds to realize she was honest and desperately in need of help. I suggest you eat up and then go and get some sleep. Maybe when you're rested you'll be in a better mood and we can have a sensible discussion about this."
In the distance the plaintive cry of the tiny infant started again.
Radley found he'd lost his appetite.
Olivia cuddled her baby and rubbed his back, burping him gently. She pressed her nose against his soft dark hair and inhaled the heavenly baby smell. How she loved this little man. A love so strong it almost hurt. From the moment they'd placed the tiny boy in her arms a week ago, she'd been smitten.
She closed her eyes and whispered against his hair. "I promise I'm going to look after you well, sweetie. We'll be fine together, just the two of us. I'll pass my law exams and get a good job. Then I'll find us a nice place to live."
Cameron Knight had really let her down. When they'd dated in college, she'd known he was an army cadet and as soon as he passed his medical exams, he'd be off to some war zone to patch up wounded soldiers. She'd never planned to have Cameron's baby and she didn't expect him to marry her, but planned or not, George had come into this world and he was as much Cameron's son as hers. She had expected him to accept that responsibility. Yet the coward hadn't answered a single one of her many texts, e-mails, and calls. He might as well have fallen off the planet.
Anger clenched inside Olivia's chest and she had to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. If not for Cameron's parents, she didn't know how she would have managed. A soft knock sounded and Sandra Knight put her head around the door.
"Have you finished feeding, love?"
"Yes." Olivia cupped George's head in her palm and glanced down at his face. "He's out for the count now."
"I expect you're ready for this, then." Sandra held up a ceramic mug and the fragrance of coffee filled the room.
"Wonderful. You're a mind reader."
Sandra came in and placed the cup on a small table next to the chair. Cameron's mum was so easy to be around, so normal and down-to-earth. In her jeans and pink sweatshirt she could be any housewife. Nobody would guess she was a doctor. At least while Olivia stayed with the Knights, she didn't need to worry if George fell ill. Both Cameron's parents were doctors. Now Radley had arrived, that meant she potentially had three doctors to help.
Olivia tried to sit up straighter so she could put George in his bassinet to sleep. Pain shot up her body from the C-section wound and she winced.
"Stay still. You shouldn't be lifting him yet. Let me take him for you." Sandra grasped George with the confidence of one well used to handling infants and settled him in his bed. "Let me take a look to see how you're healing."
Olivia eased down the loose waist of her sweatpants. With a swift move, Sandra peeled back the dressing and examined the long, stitched wound across her belly.
"Is it healing okay? It still hurts a lot." Olivia stared down at her mottled purple and yellow belly.
"I'm afraid there's a lot of bruising because it was an emergency procedure. Did your obstetrician explain that they did a T-cut in your uterus to get George out quickly?"
"Possibly. Those first few days after the birth, I was so focused on George I didn't really take in everything the doctor said."
"I didn't know until your notes came through to me yesterday. That's part of the reason you're so sore and why you must take extra care not to lift anything. For your next pregnancy, I expect they'll recommend you have an elective C-section ahead of the due date so they don't risk you going into labor."
Olivia closed her eyes and tried to get her head around the concept of another baby, but she was having enough trouble dealing with the reality of one. Sandra must have noticed because she squeezed Olivia's arm. "Don't worry about that now. Let's just concentrate on getting you healed and back to normal."
While Olivia sipped her coffee, Sandra perched on another chair and folded her hands in her lap. "I'm sorry Radley barged in on you earlier. He's normally more of a gentleman than that."
"No problem. He didn't know I was here." It had given Olivia a shock when she looked up and saw him in the doorway. For a moment she'd thought it was Cameron. She'd seen photos of Radley but hadn't realized how alike the two brothers were. They were both tall and dark like their father.
"You'll soon get used to Rad. He's well house-trained and can be quite helpful when he wants to be." Sandra smiled, obviously pleased to have her son home safe and sound. "Anyway," she stood and straightened her glasses, "I'd better let you rest. I always recommend that new mums sleep when their babies do."
"I wish I could but I need to study."
"There's plenty of time for that. Give yourself a few weeks to heal before you worry about your exams."
Olivia nodded and smiled, but as soon as Sandra left the room, she reached down and retrieved her law textbook from the floor. She placed it on a pillow to protect her sore tummy from the edges of the heavy book.
She turned to the chapter on contract law and sucked in a breath. Feeling ill and then spending weeks in the hospital before the birth had put her so far behind she was almost overwhelmed with the work she had to catch up on, but she had to do it. The college had agreed to let her take her final exams late. They'd given her a second chance; she wouldn't waste it. Unfortunately, the delay had cost her the internship with a prestigious law firm. She needed to start looking for another firm that would take her on in the New Year, after her exam results came through.
It wasn't just her future that hung in the balance, but George's as well. Cameron's parents had been wonderful. They would always help with babysitting, but she couldn't impose on their hospitality forever.
Radley woke to the sound of a crying baby. He rubbed his eyes and checked the clock. Three p.m., that meant he'd slept for five hours since he arrived home. He threw back the bedcovers and pulled on jeans and a T-shirt. The noise sounded as though it was coming from the room next to his—Cameron's room.
He wandered along the hall and halted at the open door to his brother's bedroom. A nasty smell filled the air. His mother stood by what looked like a baby-changing unit with shelves laden with diapers, creams, and other baby paraphernalia. If he remembered rightly, a chest of drawers had stood there before, with Cameron's sporting trophies on top.
"What are you doing, Mum?"
"What does it look like I'm doing?"
She pulled a wet wipe out of a box and cleaned up the bottom end of the tiny baby laid on the plastic changing mat.
"Changing a diaper."
"Well done. You obviously did learn something during your five years at medical school."