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A SURGEON TO TRUST

 

Janet Ferguson

 

 

Anna knew she could never trust a man again ....
Anna Fellowes never wanted a man in her life again after her husband died - he had been unfaithful the entire time they had been married - so why was it so difficult to get the new consultant surgeon, Dr Simon Easter, out of her mind? Anna refused to trust Simon - she was wary of his playboy past - but why did it hurt so much when he thought she was involved with a man old enough to be her father? Anna knew deep down in her heart that she wanted Simon, but could she ever trust herself - or Simon - enough to build a future ...?

CHAPTER ONE

It was
the end of June when Anna Fellowes took up the post of Sister on the gynae ward of the Regent Hospital, Charding. Her husband had died two years previously, and she supposed she could say she was getting over it.. .whatever that might mean.

It was sensible, she felt, to have made this move to the south coast. Charding was an important town, with plenty of interests. She had her own self-contained flat, too, in Prue Gatton's—her grandmother's—house, which was less than a mile from the hospital, no distance with a car.

The hospital, eight-hundred-bedded and serving a wide area, had the sea at its front, the Downs at its rear and a view of the town at one end. Some people said that on a clear day the Normandy coast could be glimpsed from the top of the tower block, but Anna had yet to prove this to be true.

Even more importantly she had yet to prove herself, for this was her first Ward Sister's post and only her second day. She was, however, being helped and advised by the retiring sister, Ruth Hilton, who had just gone off to lunch. After today she would be on her own, which was slightly alarming. Still, she'd been nursing at the Walbrook in London in a senior staffing position,
and
on a gynae ward, so she didn't feel out of place, nor too daunted, and it was vital to progress.

Even so, a ward of strange patients, when met up with all at once, took some getting used to, and it was necessary to study all the case-notes and set a face to each one. This was what she was doing as she sat in the office during the start of the quiet hour, just before visiting time.

The nursing staff had all welcomed her warmly when she'd met them yesterday. The registrar and house officer had been affable as well, but she had yet to meet the consultant, Simon Easter, who was away on a long weekend.

'He's a natural charmer,' Jean Ross, the staff nurse, had told her. 'He's the knight-in-shining-armour type— the kind of man you dream about and think "if only" in the middle of the night. He's unattached too.. .well, divorced, anyway...' she rolled her eyes heavenwards '.. .and, added to all this, he's a brilliant surgeon. I once saw him deliver triplets, and I've never forgotten it.'

Anna rated the last-named considerably higher than Jean's droolings about shining knights. Charming men were usually vain as well, and far too sure of themselves. They also tended to be unfaithful and weak in certain respects.

Daniel, for instance, had been charming-plus, but he'd broken his marriage vows, and every promise he'd ever made, and Anna's heart as well. And yet.. .and yet... And she sighed as her thoughts strayed back to him and she pictured his face and form as though he were standing in front of her eyes... And yet she had stayed in love with him till he died.

She was over him now, though; she was free now, free to do her job, and perhaps—for stranger things often happened—perhaps one day she would get married again—to a quieter man, whom she could turn to and trust.

Never look back, Prue Gatton, her grandmother, had advised, and how right she was... I've done with all that... Anna swivelled her chair away from the desk to face the window, which looked out on to the ward. It was an old-type Nightingale ward, consisting of two long lines of beds and a wide aisle down the middle.

At the ward desk, or nurses' station, Lee Cheng— the little Thai nurse—was busy filing reports. Jean was unwrapping a beribboned bouquet which had come for Mrs Dodds in bed five who, too weak to care, opened her eyes and smiled. The beds had been tidied; most patients were dozing, or reading, or watching the doors.

Janice Hall, the second-year nurse—head held high— was taking a covered bedpan out to the sluice. Janice was thinking of giving up nursing, and Anna had made a note to talk to her about this as soon as possible. Quite a few learners were tempted to give up after their first year.

Anna herself had nearly done so, but how thankful she was that she'd resisted and carried on and made the grade at last. Now, at twenty-seven years old, she had her own ward. She was still amazed that she'd been chosen from so many applicants.

She glanced down at her dress of thick purple cotton and put a careful hand to her cap, which—tiny and frilled—sat on the top of her head like a puff of cloud. Her jaw-length bob, which had a slight wave, was the colour of new pennies, whilst her eyes—hazel-brown and lavishly lashed—were the widespaced, thoughtful kind. She was tall and slender, with beautiful legs.

'You walk like an angel, dear,' old Mrs Fotheringay had told her yesterday. Alice Fotheringay was in one of the side-wards, and as the door was always open she had a good view of everyone passing up and down the corridor.

'No wings to take the weight off my feet, though,' Anna had said with a grimace, finding time to talk to the little woman who in ten days' time was being transferred to a hospice on the other side of town.

Alice was a sad case and thinking about her now, Anna got up to take her notes out of the filing cabinet. She was just pushing the drawer in, with her back towards the door, when she heard someone enter and, turning round and expecting to see Ruth Hilton, she found herself looking at a tall blond man, who at first flying glimpse reminded her of Daniel—could have
been
Daniel—and the shock of it made her gasp. It paled her face too; made her hands shake; made her drop the file over her feet.

He came round the desk to her, looking surprised. 'I seem to have startled you.'

'Most people knock,' she said pointedly, feeling the kind of irrational anger which sometimes follows shock.

He said nothing, but squatted down and helped her pick up the file. Meeting his eyes at haunch level, she glimpsed in their slatey depths a gleam of curiosity which was mirrored in her own.

He was smartly dressed and had a spruce, brushed look. He was a visitor, no doubt, an early visitor who perhaps wanted to speak to someone in charge. And that someone was her, Sister Fellowes. Pulling herself together, she was about to ask him what he wanted when Ruth came into the room with a cry of, 'Why Mr
Easter,
did you have a good weekend?'

'I did.' He was still looking enquiringly at Anna and, taking this to mean that he'd only just come and that they'd not been introduced, Ruth leapt into the breach.

'This is Mrs Anna Fellowes, Mr Easter—she takes over from me tomorrow. Sister, this is Mr Easter, our consultant.' She ranged herself at his side.

'Welcome to the Regent, Sister Fellowes.' His hand came over the desk and now the look in his eyes was clear amusement, whilst his face—the bendable kind--softened into creases as he smiled.

Taking his hand in a kind of trance, Anna wondered how she could possibly have thought he was anything
like
Daniel. This man had laughter lines radiating out from his eyes, a wide, even-lipped mouth, and a tiny scar to the right of his chin. His hair was fawn, not fair... dun-coloured hair, like an animal's pelt, lying close and flat to his head.

As she thanked him for his welcome she remembered how she'd spoken to him earlier on—how she'd virtually told him off for not knocking before entering the office— and she felt her whole body go hot. Her discomfiture was noticed by a watching Ruth, who tactlessly enquired if she was all right and, before Anna could nod, went on to say, 'Not feeling the strain already, I hope,' thereby hinting that there was worse to come and that her young successor wouldn't be up to it.

'It's a little hot in here, don't you think?' Anna said quietly and decided to ignore Ruth's little dig, even when she said,

'Well, the windows open easily enough,' and pushed at the metal arm, then turned round to Simon Easter with a shrug and a long-suffering smile. 'I expect you've come to see Mrs Miller, sir?' She found the notes on the desk, then glanced at Anna. 'You stay where you are, and tackle this paperwork.
I'll
chaperon Mr Easter— the last thing we want is to have you keeling over in the ward.'

'That's unlikely to happen.' Anna walked round the desk. She was taller than Ruth, which gave her an advantage and a certain imperiousness. 'I'd like to start as I mean to go on, Ruth. I'll escort Mr Easter. I'm sure you can do with a rest; you've been trailing around after me all day.' This was said with a smile but her eyes were challenging and she held out her hand for the notes,
which an astonished Ruth passed over to her, even managing to mutter her thanks.

'I doubt if Ruth has been overridden like that for many a year,' Simon commented drily, out in the corridor.

'She meant well; she's been very helpful to me,' was all Anna said, affording him a view of her long, narrow back as she preceded him into the ward.

Karen Miller was thirty-seven years old and seventeen weeks into her first pregnancy, and Anna had seen from her notes that she and her husband had been trying for a baby for over ten years. During her first trimester, however, an ovarian tumour had been diagnosed at a routine check in the antenatal clinic. She had been referred to Simon who, because of the risk of precipitating a miscarriage during her first three months, had decided to delay surgery until now.

This afternoon he wanted to talk to her and reassure her as much as he could. Her appearance certainly reassured
him
for she looked the picture of health-- younger than her age, with rosy cheeks and boyishly cut curly hair. After the usual greetings she plied him with questions. 'It is a
benign
tumour, isn't it, Doctor...? There's no question of malignancy?'

'I expect to find a benign cyst.' He was choosing his words carefully, Anna noticed, as he sat on the edge of the bed.

He was different on the ward, she also noticed, but, then, most doctors were. Some of them postured but Simon Easter didn't—he was approachable and kind, yet detached enough, impersonal enough, to stop at source any natural female embarrassment which his patient might feel.

'And you'll be able to get it away without harming the baby?' Anxiety clouded Karen Miller's dark eyes, which looked towards Anna as well. 'I want it so much—

we both do; we've been trying for so long. I was thrilled when I found I'd taken at last, and then this. . .this
thing
had to come.'

'You're in good hands,' Anna averred, saving Simon from having to dissemble again, and she caught his approving glance.

'Now, that,' he said, smiling as he got up from the bed, 'is what I was bursting to say but modesty prevailed! This time tomorrow—' he looked down at Karen '—it'll be all over and you'll wonder what you worried about. Try and get some rest, or get on with this.' He handed over to her the beginnings of a shawl on big knitting pins, which she'd been working on when he appeared.

'It's almost certainly a corpus luteum,' he told Anna at the ward desk. 'There's a risk to the foetus in removing it, but merely to sit on the fence and leave it
in situ
would be to risk torsion when she goes into labour. By now, with luck, the placenta should be secreting enough hormone to keep the pregnancy going without help from the ovary. Even so, with a couple who've found it hard to conceive and who want a child so much, it's a damnable thing to have happened when they should be feeling on top of the world.'

'I agree; it is.' She took the notes from him, thinking as she did so and glimpsing his concerned face, that he wasn't an unfeeling man. He plainly thought of his patients as human, not merely as chunks, of interesting material on which to demonstrate his skills.

'Have you come across a case like this before?' he asked as they walked to the doors.

She nodded. 'Yes, we had a case at the Walbrook, where I was nursing before. The patient was a girl of twenty, only ten weeks into her pregnancy, but it was necessary to operate at once due to pain from twisting. Everyone thought she'd miscarry, but the foetus was undisturbed. Progestogens were given with complete success, and she went on to full term.'

'Was the surgery performed by Sir Michael Boveton, by any chance?' Simon's voice came close to her ear as he leaned to open the door.

'Yes, it was.' She brushed past him into the corridor.

'I know him,' he said. 'He's a brilliant surgeon, and the Walbrook's a cracking hospital.'

'Mmm,' she nodded, 'I was sorry to leave it.'

'So why did you?' he asked. He was poised to go— was half turned away—but waited for her answer. 'Perhaps,' he prompted, 'your husband got moved to Charding and it was a case of Hobson's choice?'

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