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

Authors: Helen Scott Taylor

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The Army Doctor's Baby (Romance Novella) (8 page)

BOOK: The Army Doctor's Baby (Romance Novella)
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The car picked them up again and dropped them outside the huge gray edifice that housed the Ministry of Defense. They entered the tall doors and passed through security, then rode the elevator to the correct floor.

His father saluted a superior officer, which was something Radley didn't see very often, and they stopped outside a suite of offices.

"George, good to see you." Lieutenant General Platt, one of Radley's father's oldest friends, met them at the door. He shook hands with Brigadier Knight and they disappeared into the office, leaving Radley to wait outside.

"Would you like a cup of tea or coffee, sir," a young woman in uniform asked him.

"Yes, coffee. Cream, no sugar. Thank you."

She brought his drink, then returned to her desk and started tapping at her computer keyboard.

Radley picked up a magazine and flipped through it halfheartedly. His father was here to discuss a potential move to work for the Ministry of Defense, but Radley had no idea why he'd been ordered to attend.

A little over an hour later, his father came to the door and beckoned him inside. The three-star general indicated Radley should take the vacant chair in front of his desk. His father regained his seat to the side and picked up a half-finished glass of whisky.

"Well, Major Knight. The first order of business is to congratulate your father on his new appointment with the Ministry of Defense." The two older men shared a look. "And his promotion to major general, but please keep that under your hat for a few weeks until it's officially announced."

"Congratulations, sir." Radley beamed at his father, thinking how pleased his mum would be to have his dad based in London for the foreseeable future.

Lieutenant General Platt poured a finger of whisky in another glass and handed it to Radley. Then he raised his glass towards Radley's father. "To Queen and country," he said, "and your continued success in their defense."

They all knocked back the contents of their tumblers and the double malt burned its way down Radley's throat, spreading fire along his veins. Ever since his father told him they were coming here together, he'd been curious as to why they wanted to see him in the lofty halls of the MOD.

"I expect you're wondering what you're doing here, Major?" the senior officer said, as if reading his mind.

"Yes, sir."

"You might think we don't notice what goes on in field hospitals, but we do. I don't pretend to know anything about surgery, but I'm reliably informed you have a particular skill in dealing with acute trauma to limbs."

"Yes, sir," Radley repeated, wondering to which far-flung part of the world they would send him next, and silently praying he could take his remaining leave first and spend Christmas at home with Olivia and George before he left.

The lieutenant general smiled and opened a folder. "Well, Major Knight. I believe your next posting will interest you very much."

Chapter Eight

Olivia danced around the entrance hall of Willow House with George in her arms. Her exam results had arrived in the mail that day while she was at work, and she'd just opened the letter. She'd earned a first class honors degree! She couldn't wait to tell Sandra and Radley.

Excitement raced through her. All her hard work had paid off. Although her pleasure dimmed when she remembered the less-than-enthusiastic response she'd had when she contacted the local law firms to ask about training positions. It seemed all the vacancies had been taken by graduates who passed their exams in the summer.

But there would be other chances, she was sure of it, especially as she had done so well. She'd just have to persevere.

Sandra had looked after George for most of the day and slipped out for takeout when Olivia arrived home. Now the front door opened and Sandra came back with cartons of Chinese.

"I got a first," Olivia said, flapping the letter.

"You clever girl. What a wonderful Christmas present." Sandra grinned and gave her a hug. Then she kissed George's head. "This little chap is sure to be brainy having you and Cameron for parents."

Olivia's joy dimmed a little more at the reminder of Cameron. She wanted him in George's life, but he was being a pain. He'd asked his new girlfriend, a pediatric nurse, to e-mail Olivia advice on baby care. The woman was probably trying to be helpful, but it was very annoying to be told what to do by Cameron's new girlfriend.

"Let's have dinner. I'm starving." Sandra led the way through to the kitchen where Olivia had already laid the table. "I'd suggest cracking open a bottle of wine to celebrate, but you can't drink as you're still breast-feeding, and I don't want to indulge alone."

"Go on, you deserve a glass." Olivia smiled with encouragement. She felt sorry for Sandra. There were only a few hours left of Christmas Eve and she still hadn't heard from Brigadier Knight. She'd more or less given up hope that he'd be home for Christmas Day.

Olivia felt the same way, although she tried to be positive. Radley had texted her his love the previous day, but she'd received so many similar texts from him that they didn't give her the boost they used to.

Olivia strapped George into the removable seat section of his stroller and set it on the table so he could watch them. "Are you a good boy?" She squeaked his soft Santa toy hanging on his seat. He smiled and waved his arms, babbling baby language.

They sat and started eating. "Any news on what's going on in Afghanistan?" Olivia asked.

"There's nothing new in the newspapers or on the Internet." Sandra tapped the screen of her tablet device and turned it so Olivia could see. "I searched earlier but all the relevant news is a week or two old."

"So things have quieted down out there. Does that make it more likely that the men will get leave?"

"One would think so, but over the years I've found it doesn't always work that way."

"Oh." Olivia's hopes had risen every day that passed without reports of trouble, but the men still hadn't turned up. She glanced at the kitchen clock, draped with sparkly tinsel, and sighed. They were running out of time to make it home for tomorrow.

A noise sounded from the front hall and Olivia's gaze flew to the kitchen door.

"Someone's there." Sandra jumped up.

"Please, God, let it be Radley," Olivia said under her breath.

Cameron stepped through the door and her heart crashed down with disappointment. She immediately felt guilty for her reaction.

"Oh, darling." Sandra threw her arms around her younger son. "I'm so pleased to see you. Why didn't you let me know you were coming?"

"I did. I texted yesterday."

"Well, I didn't get it. I've been checking my phone umpteen times a day." She stood back, gripping his arms, and looked at him. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. I'm just pleased you're home."

"I couldn't miss my boy's first Christmas." Cameron's gaze moved to George and a grin pulled at the corners of his mouth. "How is the little guy?" He rounded the table and stopped to hug Olivia and kiss her cheek.

It wasn't quite as awkward as last time he was home. They had gotten to know each other again through their video calls and communication over George. Cameron might have his faults, but there was no doubt he cared about his son.

Cameron pulled a soft toy dog wearing a Santa hat out of a bag and tickled George's tummy with it. The baby gurgled and kicked his legs. "You like that, don't you? You'll get more presents tomorrow." He fluffed up George's hair affectionately. "Can I take him out of his seat?"

"Of course."

"Put his other presents under the tree," Sandra added. "He's already been given a heap. Georgie's not going to know what's happened when he gets all his new toys tomorrow."

Olivia smiled as Cameron unclipped the straps and lifted his son into his arms. George held his head up and stared at his father for a while before the effort grew too much for his neck and he head-butted Cameron's shoulder. "Ouch." Cameron laughed. "Easy, Georgie, you'll knock yourself out."

Sandra set a third place at the table, then Cameron returned George to his seat and sat down to eat. Sandra beamed at him. Olivia was pleased for her—at least she had one of her sons home for Christmas.

The Chinese easily stretched to feed three as there was always too much. When they finished eating, Olivia cleared away the dishes and cartons and put on the coffee machine.

They were sitting at the table, Cameron telling stories about his work in Germany, when the sound of the front door opening cut through the conversation. For the second time that evening, Sandra leaped to her feet. The sound of male voices set Olivia's heart racing—Radley, please let it be him.

Brigadier Knight filled the doorway with his imposing figure. Sandra flew into his arms and buried her face against his chest. He looked slightly bemused as he wrapped her in his embrace.

"You made it back for Christmas," she gasped tearfully.

"You knew I'd try."

Her answer was half laugh, half sob.

Radley followed his father in. Sandra released her husband and pulled her older son into a hug. "You're thoughtless, both of you. Neither of you told me you were coming."

"We weren't sure until yesterday evening. Then we decided to make it a surprise," Radley said. "It's good to be back."

"All my boys are home. I can't believe it. A few hours ago I thought Olivia and I would be celebrating Christmas on our own."

Radley's gaze rose from his mother and found Olivia. Her heart pounded, her limbs suddenly weak. She longed to throw herself in his arms, but it wouldn't be appropriate. Brigadier Knight and Cameron didn't know about her relationship with Radley yet.

The brigadier smiled at her. "How are you?"

"Fit but a little tired. George still wakes in the night to be fed."

The older man's smile stretched wide as his gaze moved to the baby seat on the table. "My first grandson." He strode around the table. "Last time I saw you, you were a bump in your mummy's tummy."

Everyone laughed.

"George junior. Good choice of name!" Brigadier Knight gripped George's foot and shook it. "He's a handsome chap. He's obviously taken after his grandfather."

The mood in the room bubbled with joy and merriment as everyone laughed again. Olivia watched the brigadier meet his grandson, yet most of her attention focused on Radley. His gaze settled on George, then moved back to her. She met his appraisal, longing pulsing through her as their eyes met.

She had started to wonder if she really loved him as much as she thought. The yearning inside her confirmed that she did. Her heart wanted to burst out of her chest with pleasure at seeing him again. She couldn't wait to be alone with him, to feel his arms around her. From the expression on his face, he felt the same way.

"Well," said Brigadier Knight, breaking into her warm imaginings of being with Radley. She swung her gaze towards the older man. He gave her a considered look, then moved on to appraise Cameron. "When are you going to make an honest woman of Olivia and ask her to marry you?"

Olivia froze, hardly able to believe the brigadier had said such a thing. Cameron's face paled but she gave him only a passing glance, her attention jumping to Radley. His lazy smile faded to a fixed blank expression.

"I hardly think that's our business," Sandra said, breaking the awkward silence.

"Of course it is." Brigadier Knight gripped the back of a chair. "My grandson will grow up in a proper family with a mother and father. I did not raise my sons to shirk their responsibilities, did I?" He turned his stern gaze on Cameron and raised questioning eyebrows.

***

Radley had been about to walk around the table to take his turn greeting Olivia and George. His thoughts had drifted back to the nights he'd spent in her room before he left, the simple pleasure of holding her in his arms while she slept and the other pleasures he now hoped they could enjoy together.

His father's words slashed across his senses, waking him from his fantasy with a painful jolt. For a moment his mind blanked in shock, then he took in Olivia's stricken expression and Cameron's obvious embarrassment.

This was awkward beyond words. If only he had confided in his father how he felt about Olivia. He had never liked to discuss personal matters with his parents, but maybe he should have made an exception this time. He'd had plenty of opportunity during the journey home.

Radley gripped the back of his neck, trying to decide what to do. Tension vibrated through the family gathering. Now was not the time to confess how he felt and possibly embarrass Olivia further. He needed to speak to both her and Cameron in private first.

Radley met Olivia's desperate gaze and longed to wrap her in his arms and tell her not to worry. Instead he satisfied himself with a quick kiss on her cheek. "Talk upstairs in a minute," he whispered and withdrew.

His mother chatted, trying to smooth things over. His father looked on with the demeanor of a man who expected everyone to jump to it and do as they were told.

"I think I'll take my stuff upstairs," Radley said, giving his mother's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "Is Cam sleeping in my room with me?"

"Yes, darling." Clutching at the lifeline of normality Radley had thrown, his mother rose and hurried in front of him to the hall cupboard. "Cameron, you can use the camp bed."

For once Cameron didn't complain. He simply hoisted the folded bed and carted it up the stairs. Radley passed his mother the bag of Christmas presents he'd bought in London and followed his brother, moving ahead on the landing to open the bedroom door.

Once in the sanctuary of his room, Radley dumped his bag on the floor and went to stare out the window. It was dark outside. Two lamps spilled pools of light, one on the terrace and the other beside the pond, highlighting the glistening cobweb of ice across the water and the sparkling frost-encrusted tree branches. A few fluffy snowflakes spiraled out of the sky and settled on the ground.

Radley rested a hand on the window frame and pulled his thoughts together. He and his brother didn't generally discuss their feelings, but he needed to ask his brother a question. He was almost certain he knew the answer, yet he had to be sure before he said anything else. Radley glanced over his shoulder.

Cameron had flopped onto Radley's bed and was checking his phone.

"Do you love Olivia?" Radley said.

Cameron's gaze jumped to him, startled. "What? No. I don't. And I'm not going to marry her, so don't you start pressuring me as well. This is the twenty-first century. Women can have babies without being married."

Relief burned through Radley, leaving a pleasant afterglow like a gulp of double malt. "Don't worry. We'll sort it out."

"Yeah. By telling Dad to stop living in the past."

Radley couldn't help smiling. "Good luck with that."

Cameron scowled.

Radley dropped down on the edge of the bed and wondered how attached Cameron had become to George. That would be the complication. "There's an easy way to get Dad off your back. I'll marry Olivia."

"You?" Cameron's brows knitted. "You don't even know her. Why would you—"

"I
do
know her. I was here for the first six weeks of George's life."

"You've known her for six weeks and you want to marry her?"

"We were together 24/7."

"Really?" Cameron sat up and eyed him curiously. "At night as well?"

"I love her, Cam. That's all you need to know."

Cameron chewed the corner of his lip. "That means you'll become George's stepfather."

"I won't cut you out, Cam. You can see George whenever you want. You'll still be an important part of his life."

Cameron flopped back on the pillow and threw an arm over his face. For long minutes he was silent and nerves churned in Radley's gut. He didn't want to steal his brother's son, but Olivia and George were a package. He loved them both. Cameron didn't.

"Look, she'll end up marrying someone. If it's me, then you're far more likely to see George regularly."

BOOK: The Army Doctor's Baby (Romance Novella)
5.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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