Read The Italian Surgeon's Christmas Miracle Online

Authors: Alison Roberts

Tags: #Fiction, #Medical, #Romance, #General

The Italian Surgeon's Christmas Miracle

BOOK: The Italian Surgeon's Christmas Miracle
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“Oh!” Kyra gasped, folding back the flaps of the box.
“Look!”

“What? What?” The younger children crowded close.

Kyra reached out to lift a loop of tinsel. “Decorations,” she said reverently. “For our tree.”

“There’s a heap of stuff.” Robert sounded impressed. “Where’s it come from?”

“They’re old ones from the hospital.” Amy watched as the first of dozens of colored balls and stars were lifted from the box. Nobody seemed to notice that the balls were a little dull and that some were chipped. Or that the shiny cardboard stars had bent corners. “Actually, it was Mr. Harrington who rescued them from being thrown out.”

Amy had no idea how difficult it might have been for Luke to find time in his busy schedule to do that, but the fact that he had gone out of his way at all was amazing. And the way he had offered them to her with that oddly hopeful expression that begged for acceptance had been what had tipped the balance.

A moment that had been a pinpoint in time but one that Amy would always remember, because that had been the moment she had fallen in love with Luke Harrington.

Head over heels stuff. A love as big as Africa. Bigger.

Dear Reader,

I hope you love Christmas as much as I do.

I think most of its magic comes from the fact that it’s a time we get to celebrate the people in our lives who are special to us, and we know that millions of others are doing the same.

I love the anticipation of giving gifts that will delight, and the decorations and carols and the special food. I even love the crowded shops and all the hassles of the last few days, because there’s a bond with everyone else. A sense of sharing even with complete strangers.

It’s a time of year that’s under a spotlight and that can magnify things. It can make the good things in life even better, but it can also make bad things seem worse. Some people can feel quite lonely and left out around Christmas.

My heroine, Amy, has a great attitude toward life, but this particular Christmas is going to test her to the limit. My hero, Luke, lost any belief in the magic of Christmas a very long time ago.

And what about this miracle? Maybe there will be more than one….

Happy reading, and I hope you have a truly wonderful Christmas.

Alison

THE ITALIAN SURGEON’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE
Alison Roberts

MEDITERRANEAN DOCTORS

Let these exotic doctors sweep you off your feet….

Be tantalized by their smoldering good looks, romanced by their fiery passion and warmed by the emotional power of these strong and caring men….

MEDITERRANEAN DOCTORS

Passionate about life, love and medicine

CHAPTER ONE

T
HE
silly season.

Aptly named.

And the sooner it was over the better, as far as Luke Harrington was concerned.

Chaos was gaining hold in the cardiology ward of St Elizabeth’s Children’s Hospital and the people who should be at least trying to keep a lid on things were clearly failing.

The noise level was well above normal, thanks to children already being hyped up by the approach of Christmas Day. There seemed to be a lot of giggling going on and the seasonal music had somehow followed him from the theatre suite. Gaudy decorations hung everywhere, including loops of fat silver tinsel on doorframes that threatened to garrotte anyone in his position of being over six feet in height.

A nurse passed him, a small child balanced on her hip, a huge white teddy bear under her other arm. The bear was wearing a Santa hat and the nurse was singing ‘Jingle Bells’. The child was beating time with two small fists and a wide grin on her face. Luke smiled back.

‘Hello, Bella. I’m coming to see you soon.’

‘Three sleeps,’ Bella informed him. ‘Mummy says I’ll be home by then but even if I’m not, Father Christmas will know where to find me.’

‘He sure will.’ Bella’s nurse had stopped singing. ‘Let’s get you back to bed, Trouble, so Mr
Harrington
will know where to find you.’ The tone suggested that this nurse was well aware of the problems caused recently by his patients being anywhere but in their beds when Luke did his rounds.

The charge nurse, Margaret, had spotted his approach to the central nurses’ station. She held out a clipboard.

‘Can you sign, please, Luke? It’s the telephone order you gave for increased analgesia for Daniel.’

Luke reached for a pen. ‘Have the results come in on Baby Harris?’

‘Yes. I’ve got them right here for you.’ Margaret turned as swiftly as her substantial figure allowed, reaching for a manila folder on the cluttered desk.

Luke scrawled his name, looked up to wait for the folder but then found his attention diverted to the same place Margaret’s had been. A large artificial Christmas tree had been positioned near the central desk. Cardboard boxes were scattered around its base. A nurse was kneeling beside one of the boxes and she had a group of children gathered around her. As she opened the box, the children grabbed decorations and that was what had attracted Margaret’s notice.

‘Not those ones, Ange.’ She moved to pick up the box. ‘I thought we’d got rid of these. We’ve got all the lovely new decorations for this year, remember?’

More boxes were opened to reveal decorations still wrapped in tissue paper. The box that was overflowing with rather sad-looking, bent, cardboard stars and chipped coloured balls was pushed into a corner behind Luke, near the rubbish bin. Margaret straightened and smiled at Luke’s expression as he watched children gleefully shredding tissue paper and crowing delightedly over their discoveries.

‘It’s Christmas.’ No one else would get away with the kind of motherly rebukes Margaret could deliver. ‘We’re allowed a little bit of mess.’ She handed him the manila folder.

Luke said nothing. Margaret had been running this ward for ever. She knew as well as he did why tidiness was important. Right now it would be impossible to move a bed past this section of the corridor. The boxes were enough of an obstacle course for people, let alone, say, a crash trolley. Yes, it was highly unlikely that an emergency would occur in the next fifteen minutes but what if it did? Part of Luke’s not inconsiderable skill as a surgeon came from being able to anticipate and prevent a broken link in a chain of response.

He placed the folder on the desk and opened it just as his pager sounded again. Automatically, he reached for the nearby phone.

‘Harrington.’

‘It’s an outside call, Mr Harrington. From a Mr Battersby. He’s been waiting a while. Shall I put it through?’

Luke was very tempted to say he didn’t have time to take this call, but he thought better of it. It wasn’t just the chaos of the run-up to Christmas that he wanted to be over. ‘Put him on,’ he said. ‘Thank you.’

His solicitor obviously respected time constraints. He got straight to the point.

‘Sorry to disturb you, Mr Harrington, but we have a problem.’

‘Oh?’ Luke tucked the phone between a shrugged shoulder and his ear as he opened the folder and fanned out the sheaf of test results with one hand.

‘Have you, by any chance, had the opportunity to take a look at this house on Sullivan Avenue that you’ve inherited?’

Maybe the constraints weren’t understood clearly enough.

‘Time is a luxury in my line of business, Mr Battersby.’ Luke frowned at the graph in front of him. Started at birth, continued by the GP and now being monitored by ward staff, charting the weight of a three-week-old boy who had been admitted two days ago in urgent need of major heart surgery.

‘Oh, I understand that. But…’

A muscle in Luke’s jaw bunched. As many of the staff at Lizzies were aware, ‘
but
’ was one of his least favourite words. ‘Find a solution, not an excuse’ was a phrase he had to use all too often.

His tone was still patient, however. Calm and professional. What any member of the public might expect to hear from the head of the paediatric cardiothoracic surgical department.

‘We’ve been through this, Mr Battersby,’ he said. ‘The house is derelict. It’s sitting on a particularly valuable piece of real estate.’ And central London real estate was always valuable. Especially this close to Regent’s Park. Luke raised his gaze for a moment. If he walked past the Christmas tree into one of the inpatient rooms on that side of the ward, he could probably see the property from the height the second floor of the hospital provided.

Not that he would recognise the house. He hadn’t seen it and he didn’t intend to.

‘Extremely valuable,’ the solicitor concurred.

Luke ignored the murmur. ‘As I told you last week, I want the house gone. Demolished.’

Wiped from the face of the earth.

‘And I want it done immediately.’ Luke allowed his determination to show. ‘I want a clean piece of land to put on the market in the new year. Preferably the first of January.’

Good. The baby’s weight was creeping up again, finally. Having dropped to 1.6 kg due to an inability to feed, the underlying heart condition and a respiratory infection, it was now back to 2 kg. An acceptable point to go ahead with the surgery.

‘We have a problem with that,’ the annoying voice in his ear repeated. ‘Particularly the time frame.’

‘I’m not interested in problems.’ Luke caught the phone with his hand, preparing to end the call. ‘That’s why I employ a firm with the kind of reputation Battersby, Battersby and Gosling has. You sort it.’

‘It’s not that simple.’

Nothing ever was. Luke was doing a quick mental rearrangement of his commitments. Which of tomorrow morning’s cases could be shuffled? Some might well have to wait an extra day or two given the length of time this case would involve and nobody would be happy about that. Not that anyone was going to get out of the intensive care unit let alone get home for Christmas with surgery planned for tomorrow, but everybody wanted it over with and recuperation to look forward to. Christmas was a family celebration tiny Liam Harris might never be able to share if this surgery didn’t happen very quickly.

‘It’s the tenants, you see…’

‘What?’
Theatre schedules slid to the back of Luke’s mind. He tried to block out the increasing noise level from the excited children helping to decorate the tree. ‘What do you mean, “tenants”? According to the information you sent me, there’s been no income on this property since its owner died.’

‘It’s complicated. There’s been an informal arrangement, apparently. Your father—’

Already tense muscles tightened another notch. Luke’s jaw ached. ‘Giovanni Moretti is no relative of mine.’

The name might be on his birth certificate but it had never been spoken. Or used. Part of his genetic make-up, admittedly, but it had been buried long ago as something to be ashamed of. Despised.

Italian.

Emotional.

The path to chaos and misery and broken lives.

All so far in the past even the reminder had been shocking, but Luke had been well brought up. Given strength of character like tempered steel. He knew not to go there. Not to even take a single step in that direction. He could almost see his grandmother’s approving nod as he drew in a careful breath.

‘Proceed with the demolition,’ he ordered calmly. ‘The tenants will simply have to find somewhere else to squat.’

‘They can’t.’ Mr Battersby, senior, sounded a lot less frail than Luke knew him to be. Defiant, even.

‘Excuse me?’

‘There’s children involved.’ Reginald Battersby cleared his throat and his tone became slightly bemused. ‘Rather a lot of them, actually. And they’re in the care of a young woman who flatly refuses to leave the house before Christmas. She is somewhat…ah…passionate about it.’

Passion. Even the word was distasteful, let alone its implications. The fastest route to chaos. The ultimate in losing control.

‘You don’t have to deal with it yourself,’ he told his solicitor. ‘Turn it over to the police. Or Social Services. There are plenty of places for people like that.’

Irresponsible people who would think nothing of taking over a deserted house and living rent free.

‘You might know this woman.’

Luke’s huff of expelled breath was incredulous. ‘I doubt that very much.’

‘We’ve done some investigation. Her name’s Amy Phillips. She works as a nurse in the cardiology ward of St Elizabeth’s.’

Luke rubbed his temple with the middle finger of his free hand. The ache from his jaw was creeping upwards. He did not like this. Not that he’d heard of this nurse but this was a busy ward that dealt with patients from both the medical and surgical areas of cardiology. He couldn’t possibly know the names of every junior staff member. It wasn’t the fact that this Amy Phillips was employed here that was disturbing. It was the potential connection. A totally unexpected link from something he had no intention of touching in any form to…Luke raised his gaze again.

At first it was a suspicious scan of the area. Was that this Amy Phillips carrying the stepladder? Or the one with a pile of linen in her arms, heading towards the sluice room? The older woman, maybe, pushing a wheelchair who had just come into view at the end of the corridor. No. She had been here for years and years and her name definitely wasn’t Amy. It was…something else.

The attempt to remember the name faded. All the noise and bustle became simply a muted background. The walls almost invisible. What Luke was aware of were in the beds behind the walls. Or in the playroom at the end of the corridor. Being carried by nurses who sang Christmas carols or held up to hook an angel to a high branch on a tree.

The
children
. Life was hard enough, wasn’t it, without starting with the kinds of difficulties these sick children had to contend with.
They
were the reason he put so many unforgiving hours of his life into his work. It
was
his life, this place. His career. A stunningly successful one that changed the lives of many, many people.

Having it tainted by a shameful past was simply unthinkable.

‘I don’t give a damn who she is or where she works,’ he said grimly. ‘I want her gone and I want a demolition crew on site tomorrow. Deal with it.’

‘It won’t—’

‘Yes, it will,’ Luke contradicted. ‘Money is not an object here. The proceeds from the sale of this property will be donated to an appropriate charity. Find an organisation who is prepared to take in these…
tenants
and I’ll make sure they are a major beneficiary.’

‘That might help,’ Reginald Battersby conceded. He still sighed, however, as though the task was supremely distasteful. ‘I’ll see what I can do.’

 

The phone was still ringing.

Amy gave the large pot one more stir to make sure the meatballs weren’t sticking at the bottom of the rich, tomato sauce they were simmering in.

‘Hello?’

‘Amy! It’s me, Rosa.’

‘Oh!’ Amy made an excited face at two small boys who were lying on the flagged floor of this huge old kitchen. ‘Angelo! Marco! It’s your Mamma!’

Relaying the information so fast probably hadn’t been wise. Now Amy had a six-year-old boy on either side, tugging at her arms, begging in voluble Italian for a turn on the phone. It made it a lot harder to hear what her older sister was saying.

‘What was that? How’s Nonna?’

‘She hates being in the hospital.’

‘How bad was it? The heart attack?’

‘The procedure they did was successful, apparently. The arterio—plaster thing.’

‘Angioplasty?’

‘That’s it! I knew
you
should have come with Mamma, not me. Neither of us have any real idea what they’re talking about.’

‘I couldn’t go, you know that. Work’s crazy and nobody’s getting leave before Christmas. And there’s trouble with the house. That horrible old lawyer was here again today. He’s threatening to—’

The voices of her identical twin nephews became louder. ‘
Mamma
!’ Angelo cried pitifully.
‘Piacere, Zietta Amy—’

‘No!’
Marco shoved his brother.
‘Mi!’

‘Travelling with Mamma was a nightmare,’ Rosa either hadn’t heard or wasn’t listening to Amy. ‘She lost everything. Twice. Tickets, passport, luggage. I’m exhausted. And…I miss the boys.’ She sounded close to tears. ‘Are they okay?’

Her sister had enough to handle. A sick grandmother. A distraught mother. Being separated from her children so soon after being deserted by that no-good husband. It wouldn’t be fair to share the fear that Amy wasn’t going to be able to hold the fort here, even for a few days. That the walls of their world were crumbling at an alarmingly rapid rate.

‘The boys are fine,’ she said. ‘Angels. Here, you talk to them for a minute. I need to check on Summer.’

Amy pushed the phone towards four small hands. ‘Marco first,’ she ordered. ‘And don’t hang up. I need to talk to Mamma again.’ She spoke in Italian because it was their first language and more likely to be obeyed.

BOOK: The Italian Surgeon's Christmas Miracle
11.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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