Authors: Jennifer Taylor
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Holidays, #Series, #Harlequin Medical Romance
The Christmas market stalls looked very festive, with strings of brightly coloured lights hanging from their awnings. When they came to a stall that was selling mulled wine, Lucy stopped.
‘Mum makes mulled wine every year on Christmas Eve. My sister and I always used to leave a glass for Santa to go with his mince pie.’
‘And did he drink it?’ Max asked, loving the way her eyes had lit up at the memory.
‘Of course—or at least somebody did.’
Max laughed. ‘Well, you can’t
that Father Christmas doesn’t exist, can you?’
She shook her head. ‘You are completely mad. Do you know that?’
Max felt his breath catch when she smiled up at him. Bending, he placed his mouth over hers. Her lips were cool from the night air, yet he could sense the heat beneath the chill and groaned. Kissing Lucy was like nothing he had ever experienced before!
He drew back reluctantly, seeing the shock in her eyes, and knew that she was as stunned by what had happened as he was.
‘I suppose I should apologise, although I’m not sorry that I kissed you,’ he said truthfully. Reaching out, he brushed his fingertips over her lips and felt her shudder. There was a definite tremor in his voice when he continued. ‘There’s just something about you, Lucy, that draws me—even though I know how crazy it is.’
I always love writing Christmas stories—mainly because I love Christmas. I spend hours shopping for presents for my family, and enjoy every second. I love wrapping the gifts when I get home, and piling them under the tree. I even enjoy visiting the supermarket and buying all the food! But most of all I love the fact that the reason for all the hustle and bustle is because we are celebrating the birth of a child. That’s why I decided to set this book in the maternity unit of Dalverston General Hospital.
Consultant Max Curtis and midwife Lucy Harris have both been badly hurt in the past, and they are very wary about getting hurt again. However, as they work together, helping to deliver babies, they soon realise that they are deeply attracted to one another. Neither wants to admit how they feel. It takes a little Christmas magic to make them see that they don’t need to be afraid of falling in love.
I wish you all a happy and joyous Christmas, wherever you are.
lives in the north-west of England, in a small village surrounded by some really beautiful countryside. She has written for several different Mills & Boon
series in the past, but it wasn’t until she read her first Medical
Romance that she truly found her niche. She was so captivated by these heartwarming stories that she set out to write them herself! When she’s not writing, or doing research for her latest book, Jennifer’s hobbies include reading, gardening, travel, and chatting to friends both on and off-line. She is always delighted to hear from readers, so do visit her website at www.jennifer-taylor.com
Recent titles by the same author:
THE DOCTOR’S BABY BOMBSHELL*
THE GP’S MEANT-TO-BE BRIDE*
MARRYING THE RUNAWAY BRIDE*
THE SURGEON’S FATHERHOOD SURPRISE**
Brides of Penhally Bay
For my granddaughter, Isobel. My little ray of sunshine.
last but definitely not least, this is Max Curtis, our acting consultant. Max, this is Lucy Harris, the new midwife who started today.’
‘Nice to meet you, Lucy.’
‘You too, Dr…er…er…’ Lucy flushed when she realised that she hadn’t caught his surname. It was hard to disguise her embarrassment when the dark-haired man seated behind the desk laughed.
‘It’s Curtis, although most people round here call me Max.’ He smiled up at her. ‘I’m not picky, mind. “Hey
” will get my attention fast enough.’
‘That’s good to know.’ Lucy smiled back, relieved by the easy way he had accepted her gaffe. Obviously, Max Curtis wasn’t the type of person who took himself too seriously, unlike some of the consultants she had worked with. ‘Although I promise that I won’t forget your name from now on. I won’t dare!’
He chuckled softly, his dark brown eyes creasing at the corners. ‘Don’t worry about it. The first day in a new job is always a nightmare. There’s so much to take in that you don’t know if you’re on your head or your heels most of the time.’
‘That’s true,’ Lucy agreed. ‘I just hope everyone
will be as understanding as you when I get their names muddled up!’
‘They will be,’ he assured her then reached for the phone when it started to ring. ‘Maternity. Max Curtis speaking.’
Lucy sighed as she moved away from the desk, hoping that would be the end of the introductory tour. She honestly didn’t think that she could cope with having to remember anyone else. Joanna, the young trainee midwife who had been delegated to show her around, grinned at her.
‘That’s it. You’ve met everyone now, apart from the staff who are working tonight and Anna Kearney, our consultant. She’s on maternity leave at the moment, so you have that pleasure to come.’
‘At least that’s one less name to forget,’ Lucy declared, rolling her eyes.
‘As Max said, nobody will worry about it,’ Joanna assured her. She led the way along the corridor, pausing outside the door to one of the delivery suites. There were four suites in total and Lucy knew that every one was currently occupied. Although the maternity unit at Dalverston General was smaller than the one she had worked on in Manchester, she had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be any less busy because of that.
‘Margaret’s going off duty soon and Amanda wants you to take over from her,’ Joanna explained, passing on the instructions the senior midwife had given her. ‘I’ve got to help sort out the breakfasts now so I’ll have to leave you here. Is that OK?’
‘Fine,’ Lucy assured her. She smoothed down her brand-new uniform top as Joanna hurried away then tapped on the door and went in, smiling at the middleaged
woman standing beside the bed. ‘I believe I’m taking over from you.’
‘That’s right.’ Margaret returned her smile. ‘We were hoping that Sophie’s baby would arrive while I was still on duty but he’s proving to be a tad reluctant to make his appearance in the world.’
‘Obviously a determined little chap who knows his own mind,’ Lucy said lightly. She went over to the bed and introduced herself to the young mother-to-be. ‘Hello, Sophie, my name is Lucy Harris and I’ve just started working here today. I’ll be looking after you when Margaret goes home.’
‘You are a proper midwife, though?’ Sophie said anxiously. ‘You’re not just a trainee?’
‘No. I’ve been a midwife for four years and I’ve delivered lots of babies during that time,’ Lucy explained. It wasn’t ideal to have to hand over a patient in the middle of a delivery and she was keen to allay the girl’s fears. ‘I worked at a hospital in Manchester before I came here.’
‘Oh, I see. Well, that’s all right, I suppose.’
Sophie still sounded a little dubious but Lucy understood. The relationship between a mother and her midwife was a delicate one and needed to be based on trust if it was to be successful. She patted Sophie’s hand. ‘Everything is going to be fine, Sophie, believe me. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like Margaret to update me as to what progress you’ve made.’
Sophie closed her eyes as Lucy moved away from the bed. She looked both exhausted and extremely anxious as she settled back against the pillows. Lucy frowned as she studied the girl’s strained face.
‘When was she admitted?’
‘Just before eight p.m. last night,’ Margaret replied. ‘Her contractions were quite strong, so I was hopeful it would be a fairly speedy delivery even though it’s her first baby. Unfortunately, everything started to slow down a couple of hours later and now we’ve come to a complete standstill.’
‘How’s the baby doing?’ Lucy queried.
‘Fine. Heartbeat is strong and there’s no signs of distress. It’s just going to be one of those stop-go deliveries from the look of it, which is a pity because I was hoping to get it over as quickly as possible.’ Margaret must have seen the question in Lucy’s eyes and lowered her voice. ‘Sophie’s not got anyone with her, you see. From what I can gather, the baby’s father took off a couple of months ago and she’s not seen him since.’
‘What about family or friends?’ Lucy asked sympathetically.
‘She’s never mentioned her family so I’ve no idea what the situation is there. As for friends, well, she hasn’t lived in Dalverston all that long. Apparently, the baby’s father got a job at the industrial park and that’s why they moved here.’ Margaret sighed. ‘I feel really sorry for her because she’s been very much on her own since he disappeared off the scene.’
‘What a terrible shame.’
Lucy’s heart went out to the girl, although she couldn’t help thinking that even if Sophie had had friends and family to support her, it might not have helped. As she knew to her cost, sometimes it was the people you were closest to who let you down most of all.
The thought sent a shaft of pain surging through her but she forced it down. She refused to dwell on the past when she had moved to Dalverston to escape it.
She read through the notes Margaret had made then checked Sophie’s pulse and BP, the baby’s heartbeat, all the routine tasks that were so essential to the eventual outcome. She had just finished when the door opened and Max Curtis appeared.
‘Hi! I thought I’d check to see what progress we’re making,’ he said as he came over to the bed.
Lucy stepped aside to give him room, somewhat surprised to discover how tall he was. He had been sitting down when they had been introduced so she’d had no idea that he must be at least six feet tall with a leanly muscular physique under a pair of well-cut dark grey trousers and a paler grey shirt. All of a sudden she felt unusually conscious of her own lack of inches. At a mere five feet two, she could best be described as petite, although a lushly feminine figure did make up for what she lacked in height.
‘Everything seems to have come to a dead stop, Dr Curtis,’ Sophie said forlornly. ‘I don’t understand why it’s happened.’
‘It just does sometimes, Sophie,’ he assured her. ‘It’s all systems go and then everything suddenly tails off. Are you still having contractions?’
‘No. I’ve not had one for ages now.’
‘Let me take a look and then we’ll decide what we’re going to do.’
He gently examined her, explaining what he was doing as he checked the position of the baby and how far her cervix had dilated. Lucy appreciated the fact that he didn’t rush. He appeared to have all the time in the world and she knew that it would reassure Sophie more than anything else would do. She was pleased to see that the girl looked far less anxious by the time he finished
and explained that he was going to give her something to help restart her contractions.
He wrote out an instruction for an intravenous infusion of synthetic oxytocin to be administered. This would augment the naturally occurring oxytocin that caused the muscles in the uterus to contract. He handed it to Lucy after she told him that Margaret was going off duty. ‘I’ll check back with you later to see what progress we’re making. In the meantime, get the switchboard to page me if you have any concerns.’
‘I shall,’ Lucy concurred.
‘Hopefully, this should get things back on track,’ he added, slipping his pen back into his pocket. ‘We’ll give nature a bit of a boost and hope it’ll do its stuff.’
‘Always the best solution,’ she agreed. She had never been an advocate of rushing in unnecessarily and it was good to know that they were in accord in that respect.
‘It seems we’re in agreement, then.’ Max smiled at her then headed towards the door. ‘Right, now I’m off to make myself a large cup of black coffee. I need a
injection of caffeine if I’m to get through the rest of the day.’
‘That sounds like desperation talking,’ Lucy replied lightly.
‘Oh, it is, believe me. Given half the chance, I would curl up in this doorway and fall fast asleep!’
He laughed but Lucy could tell that he was only partly joking. She frowned as she took stock of the lines etched either side of his mouth, the weariness in his dark brown eyes, and realised all of a sudden how exhausted he looked.
‘Didn’t you get much sleep last night?’
‘I didn’t get any. I was about to get into bed when
I was called back here to see a patient. Eclampsia,’ he added succinctly.
‘Oh, I see.’ Lucy nodded, understanding why he had needed to rush back into work. Eclampsia was a highly dangerous condition for both a mother and her child. It could lead to convulsions and even coma and death if not treated in time. Normally, the condition was picked up as pre-eclampsia during routine antenatal screening. The combination of high blood pressure, protein in the urine and oedema—an accumulation of fluid in the tissues—were all indications of it. She was surprised that alarm bells hadn’t started ringing earlier, in fact.
‘Was there no sign beforehand that the mother was at risk?’ she asked curiously.
‘None at all. Mind you, the fact that she missed her last couple of antenatal appointments didn’t help.’ Max sighed. ‘When I asked her why she hadn’t been to the clinic, she said that she hadn’t had the time. Apparently, she had a hair appointment on the first occasion and needed to get her nails done the next time.’
‘Unbelievable!’ Lucy exclaimed.
‘Yep. I think that just about sums it up. Fortunately, her husband phoned us when she started complaining that she had a headache and that her vision was blurred. He was told to bring her straight in so she was here when she had a convulsion. We administered anti-convulsant drugs and I delivered the baby by Caesarean section. He’s in the special care baby unit, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be fine. Mum will need monitoring for the next few weeks but she should be all right too.’ He shrugged. ‘It was worth a sleepless night, all things considered.’
He sketched her a wave and left, his long legs striding along the corridor. Lucy watched him for a moment
then closed the door and went to set up the drip. Funnily enough she had enjoyed talking to him. Max Curtis had a relaxed and friendly manner that had put her at her ease, made her feel more positive about the changes she had made to her life recently. Hopefully, moving to Dalverston had been the right thing to do.
She sighed as the doubts suddenly surfaced again. It had been hard to leave her last job when she had been so happy there, harder still to leave all her friends and family behind, but she’d had no choice. Although her parents had tried to persuade her not to go, Lucy knew how difficult it would have been for them if she’d stayed. After all, it wasn’t
fault that her cousin and her ex-fiancé had had an affair.
Lucy took a deep breath and quelled the moment of panic. She had made her decision and even if it didn’t work out as well as she hoped it would, at least it would give her a breathing space, time to put things into perspective. She simply had to remember how much worse it would have been if she’d found out about Richard and Amy
the wedding had taken place.
Max made his way to the staffroom then realised that he didn’t even have the energy to make himself a cup of coffee. Veering away from the door, he headed for the lift. The cafeteria should be open soon and the thought of a double espresso with his name on it was too tempting to resist.
The staff were just opening up when he arrived, so he gave them his order and sat down, feeling weariness washing over him. The long night had taken its toll, especially as it had been the second night in a row that he’d been called in. With Anna on maternity leave, he
had been picking up more than his share of extra hours recently. It wasn’t a new occurrence, by any means. Working long and unsocial hours was par for the course in medicine. At one point, he’d been only too glad to work any time he was needed, too. It had been far less stressful dealing with his patients’ problems than what had been happening in his marriage.
Max frowned. It was rare that he thought about the past and it surprised him that he should do so now. He had been divorced for three years and he had closed the door on that episode in his life. OK, so he was willing to admit that it had had a knock-on effect, in that he avoided commitment these days, but to his mind that was common sense. Once bitten, twice shy seemed a sensible maxim to live by and he wasn’t going to put himself through all that heartache again.
His thoughts moved away from the less than appealing subject of his failed marriage and on to the far more interesting topic of their new midwife. Lucy Harris appeared both highly competent and extremely capable, and he was pleased that their views were in accord. Some of the older midwives were a little entrenched in their ways and it would be good to have a soul-mate on the unit.
The fact that she was also extremely pretty with those huge blue eyes and those shiny auburn curls tumbling around her cheeks was another point in her favour. Although Max shied away from commitment, he had a normal healthy interest in the opposite sex and Lucy Harris was a very attractive member of it. All of sudden his tiredness lifted and he grinned. Working with the lovely Lucy could turn out to be a real tonic.