Read The Army Doctor's Baby (Romance Novella) Online

Authors: Helen Scott Taylor

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The Army Doctor's Baby (Romance Novella) (2 page)

BOOK: The Army Doctor's Baby (Romance Novella)
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"Give me a break. I've only just woken up."

His mother cast him a smile and he realized she'd been teasing him. Maybe he was still a little prickly after the long journey home from Afghanistan.

He ambled closer to the baby unit and picked up a blue and pink rattle. "What's his name?"

"George, after your father."

Using his father's name… Sounded like Olivia was trying to curry favor with his parents any way she could. He pushed aside the cynical thought and held the rattle a few inches above the baby's face. "Hey, George, what's this?" He gave it a shake and the child stilled its wriggling and seemed to be listening. The kid was cute, like a doll, with his tuft of dark hair and tiny pink-bow mouth.

Radley's mother finished putting on the diaper and buttoned up the blue all-in-one pajama suit the kid was wearing. "There you go, little man, a lovely clean, dry bottom. I bet you feel better for that, don't you, darling." She lifted the baby and kissed his forehead before cuddling him close. "You are such a gorgeous little thing. I could hug you all day. But I've got to go to work. Uncle Radley will take you to your mummy."

Radley stepped back. He had no intention of doing anything of the sort. His mother wasn't easily put off, though. She pursued him until his back hit the wall. "No, Mum."

"Yes, Radley. Come on. Make yourself useful."

"I don't know a thing about babies."

"That's nonsense. You're a doctor."

"I'm a trauma specialist."

She dismissed his objection with a roll of her eyes and passed him the baby. With a sigh of resignation, he took the tiny boy into his arms. He was so small and fragile that Radley was afraid he might squeeze him too hard. He adjusted his grip, one hand cupping the baby's padded bottom, the other his back, with the child's head against his shoulder.

Feelings he had pushed down and tried to forget flooded back on a rush of pain—the night he'd watched his wife give birth to what he'd thought was his son. The first and only time he'd held the baby boy, marveling at this new tiny person in his life. A few hours later another man had turned up and claimed to be the baby's father, and Radley's life had fallen apart. That had been five years ago. He'd thought that was behind him. Now he realized he'd been fooling himself.

"What's the matter, Rad?" His mother laid a hand on his shoulder. He'd never confided in her how bad he felt about losing the son it turned out he'd never had. He wasn't about to open that up for discussion now.

"Nothing. Still a bit tired, I guess."

"Okay." She examined his face for a moment longer, then turned and headed to the door. "I'm sorry to leave you to cope, but I must go or I'll be late. I do two evening surgeries a week at the local practice so their female doctor gets a break."

She halted at the door and put a hand to her forehead. "I almost forgot to tell you, Olivia had an emergency C-section that involved a T-cut to the womb. She mustn't lift anything, and that includes George. She'll want to feed the little guy soon, so make sure you're around to help out. His stroller is in the back porch. I told Olivia to take a walk in the garden to reduce the risk of blood clots. She's probably still outside. See you later." She raised a hand and was gone.

Radley stood in the quiet room, the baby in his arms, listening to his mother's footsteps descending the stairs. He heard her shout good-bye, then the front door slammed.

George wriggled against him. How vulnerable and defenseless this tiny person was. The urge to protect the baby flooded through Radley and unlocked emotions he'd shut deep inside. He kissed the soft, fluffy hair on George's head. If Olivia was telling the truth, this was his nephew. It wasn't the same as having his own son, but Knight blood ran through the little boy's veins and right now the child needed him.

A smile pulled at his lips. "You're a funny little guy, aren't you?" He shifted his grip, moving George into a more comfortable position.

He walked to the wall mirror and looked at the reflection of the baby in his arms. George did look a bit like the baby photos of Cameron. Perhaps he should have advised Cameron to contact Olivia all those months ago when she first claimed to be pregnant, but Cameron had been so certain he wasn't the father. Radley now hoped Cameron was wrong.

Chapter Two

A pair of ducks squabbled on the pond, quacking and splashing. Olivia smiled at their antics and drew in a breath of the clean country air. Willow House where the Knights lived was a wonderful country retreat away from the dirt and bustle of London, a fantastic place for kids.

The remains of a tree house balanced on the branches of a massive oak tree at the bottom of the garden. It was neglected now, but in the past she could imagine how much fun Radley and Cameron must have had there. She hoped her little boy would get to enjoy this garden as well when they visited. She still hoped Cameron would change his attitude and play a part in George's life, otherwise it would be difficult for her to maintain a relationship with Cameron's parents. And she wanted to keep that. Not just for George, but for herself as well.

"Hi there."

Olivia started in surprise at the sound of a man's voice. She'd been waiting for Sandra to call her inside to feed George. She turned on the wooden bench where she'd sat to watch the ducks.

Radley strode towards her, George snug against his chest. Olivia's breath caught and her heart gave a jolt. When Radley had appeared at the lounge door earlier, she'd not thought much about him except that he resembled Cameron. But, gosh, the man was good-looking, or maybe it was just the sight of him with her baby in his arms that had her melting inside.

Faded jeans hung low on his hips, and a plain white T-shirt clung to his torso. His biceps bulged, and his forearms were corded with muscle beneath a dusting of dark hair. George looked so tiny cradled in Radley's large hands.

"Hi," she croaked, and had to clear her throat and repeat the greeting.

"My mother had to go to work. She asked me to help you out while she's gone. I hope that's okay."

Olivia rose slowly, careful not to hurt her sore tummy, and stepped towards him. "Yes, of course. Thank you. I knew your mum was going out. I thought she was going to call me inside before she went."

"Maybe she didn't bother because I'm here."

"I guess you're right."

Instinctively, Olivia reached to take her baby. She stepped up close to Radley and slid her hands around George, but Radley didn't let go. There was an awkward moment when they both held him. The backs of Olivia's hands pressed against hard, masculine ribs. A little zing of awareness shot through her.

She hadn't noticed how tall Radley was when she first saw him, taller than Cameron by a couple of inches at least. His shoulders were broader and his muscles bigger. Everything about him was just a bit more mature than Cameron. She looked up into his eyes, light brown tinged with green around the pupils. For a moment the world went away and there was just the three of them.

"Mum said you shouldn't lift anything," Radley said softly.

"Oh, yes. I'd forgotten."

The spell broken, Olivia stepped back so fast she stumbled and had to grab the bench to catch her balance. Pain shot through her body and she winced.

"Careful, there." Radley was beside her in an instant. He held George in one arm and his other came around her shoulders, steadying her. "Did you hurt yourself?"

"Not much. I'm fine. Sometimes I forget that I have to be careful."

As the ache faded, tears flooded Olivia's eyes and she blinked them away, but it was a losing battle. Drips fell over her lashes and ran down her cheeks. She'd tried to be strong and cope alone, but it had been so tough sometimes. All she'd wanted was a little moral support from Cameron, just to know he was concerned about her welfare and would be there for George, so the little guy didn't grow up without a dad.

She'd pushed that need down deep but the sight of George in Radley's arms and now his concern for her brought that longing back.

"Hey, no need for tears." Radley drew her closer and enfolded her against his chest. The stubble on his chin brushed her forehead. She laid her cheek against his firm, warm muscles and wiped her face on her sleeve. She had to stop crying. She was sobbing all over a man she barely knew, the brother of her baby's father. This was not the impression she wanted to give him. She should compose herself and pull away.

Instead she pressed closer, absorbing Radley's warmth and strength, safe for a few minutes in his arms with her baby. She knew nothing about him except that he was an army doctor who'd just returned from Afghanistan, yet she sensed he was everything his mother had claimed, kind, gentle, and dependable. He was everything she'd hoped Cameron would be.

For a fleeting moment she wished Radley were George's father.

***

Olivia pulled away and Radley reluctantly released her. She had felt good in his arms. Too good. This woman had been his brother's girlfriend and had just given birth to a baby. She was about as off-limits as a woman could be.

Radley stepped back to increase the distance between them and tried to forget the feel of her womanly curves pressed against him. He cleared his throat and concentrated on changing his hold on George to give himself a few seconds.

The tiny boy chose that moment to wake up and let out a plaintive wail. It was good timing.

"Mum said you'd want to feed him now," Radley suggested.

"That's right. Can you bring him into the lounge for me? I find it most comfortable to feed him in the leather recliner by the French window."

"That's my father's chair." Radley smiled at the thought of a woman feeding a baby in the chair where his father liked to do the
Times
crossword.

"I know." Olivia kept pace with him as they wandered back to the house. "Your mum said Brigadier Knight wouldn't mind. I hope she's right. I met him when I was in the hospital before he went back to Afghanistan. I get the impression he doesn't stand for any nonsense."

Radley laughed. "That's why they want him over there to help supervise the closing down of some of the medical facilities before we withdraw. He gets people moving."

When they reached the back door, Radley stood aside and ushered Olivia through, then followed her along the hall to the sitting room. He hadn't noticed the state of the room when he'd first seen Olivia here. Now he saw how much baby paraphernalia lay around—a baby bed, blankets, toys, bags, tubes and pots of cream, and a plastic contraption that probably had something to do with feeding the child. The rather staid room with its velvet curtains and leather sofas even smelled of baby stuff.

George squirmed in Radley's arms and let out a high-pitched wail. "You've got a good set of lungs on you, young man." Radley glanced at Olivia as she gingerly sat down and made herself comfortable. "I think he's hungry."

"Yep. He's hungry most of the time. Your mum says he's trying to catch up because he was small when he was born. I had to spend the last couple of months in the hospital because he wasn't growing fast enough."

"That can't have been much fun."

"It wasn't. I nearly went stir crazy." Olivia gathered her long dark hair and caught it back in a band she'd had around her wrist. Then she placed a pillow on her lap and Radley laid George there.

"Do they know why he didn't put on weight?"

"I was really sick in the first few months. That meant I got so behind on my college work I had to study like mad to catch up and find time to earn enough money to pay the bills. Your mum thinks maybe a combination of me not keeping my food down and working too hard caused it."

And to think Radley had been concerned that Olivia was a lazy user like his ex-wife.

"Well, he might be a tad small, but he looks healthy." Radley picked up a huge tome from the floor beside her chair and checked the spine. It was a law text. "Yours?" he asked as he laid it on a table.

"Some of the work I still need to catch up on. I'm in the final year of my law degree, but I missed the exams. I'm taking them in November."

She had ambition. He approved of that.

Olivia untucked her top and turned those huge blue eyes on him. He didn't want to leave, but she was obviously waiting for him to go so she could start feeding.

"Anything you want?"

"A cup of coffee in about fifteen minutes would be great."

Radley pulled the sitting room door closed behind him and caught a glimpse of her lifting her sweater. Something he shouldn't be feeling jolted through him. He turned away and pressed his lips together. Just treat her like a sister-in-law, he told himself. After all, if Cameron came back and married her, that's what she would be.

As he put on the coffee machine, he mulled over their conversation. He knew very little about her, but one thing was clear—she was nothing like his ex-wife. She appeared to be everything he wished his ex-wife
had
been, capable, hardworking, and ambitious. The sort of woman who would contribute to a marriage and not spend all her husband's money and run around behind his back getting pregnant by another man.

What puzzled him was why his brother had dumped her when he left college. Men in the military had long-distance relationships. It happened all the time. The stupid idiot obviously didn't have the experience to recognize a good thing when he had it.

It was time Radley set him straight and helped them get back together.

***

The sitting room was very quiet when Radley returned later with Olivia's cup of coffee. He pushed the door ajar and peered in. The recliner was tipped back, and it looked as though Olivia had fallen asleep holding George. Radley hurried in and set the cup down.

He need not have worried. George was snuggled safely in her arm on the pillow. He paused to take in the scene of mother and baby. There really was something magical about the sight. It was a shame Cameron was missing this, missing seeing his son so small. The child would grow quickly.

Careful not to disturb Olivia, he lifted the baby out of her arms, laid him in the bassinet at her side, and tucked him in. George's tiny fingers curled around Radley's thumb and he grinned for a moment before pulling his hand away. The kid already had a strong grip.

He fetched a fleecy blanket and laid it over Olivia, then smoothed back some strands of hair that had come adrift from her ponytail. A healthy pink flush colored her skin and her thick eyelashes lay in dark crescents on her cheeks. Cameron really was an idiot to stay away. If this beautiful woman and her adorable baby boy belonged to Radley, nothing would keep him from them.

Olivia stirred and flickers of blue appeared between her lashes. "Is George okay?"

"He's fine. You sleep. I'll be around if you want me. Just call."

"Okay." Her eyelashes drifted closed again. He took another moment to watch her before turning away.

He ran upstairs to his room and fished his mobile phone out of his bag. It still had a little charge left—enough to make one call, anyway. He sat on the edge of his bed and scrolled through his contacts to his brother's number and dialed. His brother was stationed in Germany, only one hour ahead of the UK.

As the phone rang, he stared out the window, down the garden to the pond where he'd found Olivia watching the ducks. He'd expected to get voice mail but his brother picked up.

"Hey, Rad, are you home?"

"I'm sitting on my bed, appreciating the silence."

"I suppose it's good to see the old place again. I should come home, but I can't wait to be stationed somewhere more exciting. It's all routine stuff in Germany."

Radley remembered thinking the same when he was first qualified and fresh out of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst with his captain's pips. He had longed to be sent to a war zone where he could get more experience. He'd come down to earth with a bump when the first injured servicemen had arrived on his operating table. He'd always wanted to be a surgeon, but there was something soul-destroying about seeing men, day after day, who'd been harmed on purpose.

"Do you know where you're going?" he asked.

"No, only that I'll ship out after Christmas."

"You've got enough time to come home for a weekend then."

"Not really."

"I managed to get home occasionally when I was stationed in Germany. You need to make the effort. Mum must have told you Olivia and her baby are staying here."

Silence greeted his comment.

"Come on, Cam. You need to deal with this."

"I don't see how the baby's mine. We always used protection."

"News flash, mate, condoms aren't infallible."

Cameron's sigh hissed through the phone. "I'm still not convinced. You were the one who told me not to get suckered."

"That was before I met Olivia." Radley pinched the bridge of his nose. He'd known this would be a difficult conversation. "If she says George is yours, I believe her."

"She named the baby after Dad?"

"Yes."

More silence.

"Come home and see them. Olivia's had a tough time. It would do her good to know you care enough to visit your son. I guarantee that once you hold the little guy, you'll feel differently about this."

Cameron heaved another sigh. "You're sure he's mine?"

"He looks like you. Mum thinks so, and I guess Dad does too or Olivia wouldn't be here."

BOOK: The Army Doctor's Baby (Romance Novella)
5.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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