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Authors: Alison Roberts

Wishing for a Miracle

BOOK: Wishing for a Miracle
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“No.” He spoke softly now. “Don't you see, Jules?” The words were being forced out. He shouldn't be saying them. But he could no more
not
say them than
not
take in another breath.

“It's not that I
have
to protect you so much,” he said. “It's that I
want
to. Too much.”

Slowly, her gaze lifted. Caught his and held it.

Mac's hands fisted by his sides as a defence against the urge to reach out and pull her into his arms. He tried to smile, but could only manage a brief, one-sided twist of his mouth. “It's a bit of a problem,” he confessed. “It has been ever since that…that kiss.”

Dear Reader,

I'm not lucky enough to have a sister, but I do have an amazing daughter and many truly wonderful friends, so I'm well aware of what an astonishingly powerful thing the bond between women can be.

Friends, mothers, daughters…and sisters. I started thinking about the kind of bond that might be created if it encompassed all of these possibilities. Would it be enough to overcome obstacles that seem impossible?

Neither Julia nor Anne Bennett can envision a future for themselves that involves children. Their reasons might be different, but the effect their convictions have on their relationships has the potential to be disastrous.

But Jules and Annie are more than simply sisters, and their bond is such that they will go to extraordinary lengths to help each other. As far, even, as carrying a child for the one who can't.

That kind of bond is amazing all on its own, but I wanted to give these sisters even more. Men who love them for exactly who they are and futures that will allow all their dreams to come true.

Cherish the women in your life. The bond is magic.

With love,

Alison

WISHING FOR A MIRACLE
Alison Roberts

WISHING FOR A MIRACLE
CHAPTER ONE

T
HE
train lay like a jagged open wound across the soft, misty Scottish landscape.

One carriage was still on the bridge, anchored by the tangled metal of broken overhead beams. The engine and two more carriages were in the gully, some thirty metres below, partially submerged by the small but fast-moving river. Another hung, suspended somehow by the mess of twisted steel on the bridge, a gigantic pendant that encased goodness knew how much human misery.

‘Target sighted.'

The quiet statement from the man staring down from beside the helicopter pilot was superfluous except that the inflection on the second word said it all. This wasn't the usual kind of target they set out to locate. This was, quite probably, a once-in-a-career, major, multi-casualty incident.

This was…huge.

Julia's determined intake of breath was clearly communicated via the equipment built into their helmets.

‘How 'bout that, Jules?' The rich, male voice of her
partner filled her earphones again. ‘Not something you'd see every day back home, is it?'

She wouldn't want to either but it was exactly what she'd come to the other side of the world in search of, wasn't it? In a small country like New Zealand, the chance to be involved with a rescue mission of this size was highly unlikely. Working in the UK was all about getting the experience in case it did happen. Having the opportunities to hone the skills she knew she had.

She hadn't anticipated this sudden rush of adrenaline, however. A sinking, almost sick-making dive occurring in her belly. Julia swallowed hard.

‘It's what I signed up for,' she said. ‘Bring it on!'

‘Hold your horses, lassie.' It had been nearly three months since Julia had joined this new specialist emergency response team and the pilot, Joe, had learned to hide his vague incredulity that such a slender, feminine creature could be so keen to hurl herself into danger but there was still the suggestion in his tone that she had to be at least halfway crazy. ‘There's a Medivac chopper taking off. We haven't got clearance to land yet.'

‘And then we'll have to check in with Scene Command,' her partner reminded her. ‘See where we're needed first.' A hint of tolerance born of understanding crept into his voice. ‘Joe's right. Hold those horses.'

 

The tolerance had been hard won but Alan MacCulloch was used to her enthusiasm by now. Appreciated it, even, now that he knew she wasn't about to rush headlong into a scene and put them both in danger, and this had become a tradition. Julia was the feisty one,
ready to leap in and do whatever needed to be done. Mac was the calm one. They both looked but Mac got to give the word before either of them leapt. It was one of the many things they had found that made them able to work so well together. Had forged them into a tight team in a surprisingly short space of time.

The scene commander wasted no time in briefing them. Dealing with the carriages that had crashed to ground level was under control.

‘Carriage 3…' The scene commander looked up. ‘Still an unknown quantity for victim numbers and status. One bloke got the door open near the top and managed to climb out. He fell.'

Julia exchanged a glance with Mac. They both knew how unlikely it was that someone would have survived such a fall. The dangers inherent in this rescue were becoming very clear.

‘Someone else was spotted signalling for help,' the scene commander continued. ‘Waving through a broken window at the bottom of the carriage, and cries were heard. More than one voice. We used megaphones from the bridge and the ground to order anyone else in the carriage to stay as still as possible while we tried to stablise things.' He cleared his throat. ‘Nothing's been seen or heard since.'

‘Needs triaging, then,' Mac said calmly. ‘How stable is the bridge?'

‘Engineers reckon it's safe at each end, which is where the cables have been anchored. For some reason there was a structural collapse towards the middle, which is what's caused the incident. According to an eye
witness who was driving on the road over there, carriage 3 was swinging violently when the first carriages broke free. Presumably it's fairly well caught up to have stayed there but it's anyone's guess how long the connection's going to last.'

‘Incident' was such an insignificant title for this disaster. Julia sucked in a breath as she looked up again. The carriage had gone careening off the rails. There must have been one hell of a jolt and then it would have been swinging wildly. Passengers would have been hurled about like puppets and the potential for serious, if not fatal injuries was high.

Her gaze narrowed. The carriage had windows and a door at either end. The door at the top was still open, leaving a black hole that would be an easy entrance. She shifted her gaze back to the men beside her.

‘We can winch down from the bridge and have a look.'

There was a heartbeat's silence after Julia had spoken. They all knew it was unlikely they would see as much as they needed to through the windows and impossible to assess the condition let alone treat victims, but if someone climbed inside it would mean disengaging from any safety of a winch line.

This was dangerous. Very dangerous. Weird that Julia's nerves seemed to have vanished.

‘I can do that,' she said.

Both men stared at her. Mac opened his mouth to say something but Julia was faster.

‘I'm half your weight,' she said. ‘We don't know how much movement those cables are going to cope with and it would be sensible to use whatever advan
tages we've got. The more gently we can test it, the safer we're all going to be.'

‘We've got a crane on the way,' the scene commander added. ‘The plan was to lower the carriage to ground level.'

‘How long will that take to get here?'

The man responsible for overseeing this enormous scene sighed. ‘At least three hours. Maybe longer.'

Too long for anyone struggling to survive in there. Way too long.

Mac's eyes narrowed as he assessed the scene again. Then his gaze was on her and it was just as penetrating. Julia held the touch of those dark eyes with her own and waited. Patiently. She had learned that nothing else she said would make any difference now.

This was Mac's call as the senior officer and she trusted his judgment.

The eye contact went on…and on. Long enough for it to have been unacceptable between people who didn't know each other extremely well indeed. Long enough for it to be intimate but not uncomfortable because they both knew what this was about and it was purely professional.

OK, it was deeply personal as well, of course, because they relied on each other and this was about life-and-death decisions being made—for themselves and others—but they both knew where the boundaries lay and they'd never stepped close enough to even have to define those limits.

Questions were being asked and answered here.

‘Are you sure about this?'

‘Yes.'

‘You don't have to.'

‘I know.'

‘This will be the toughest yet.'

‘I know that too. I can do this, Mac.'

‘I know you can.'

And, finally, there it was. Mac's nod.

Slow but resolute. Permission had been granted.

 

She hadn't expected him to agree so easily.

The flicker of surprise had been there in her eyes. Mac had registered gratitude, too, for the respect his decision encompassed. What he hadn't seen, and which would have been entirely understandable, had been a hint of dismay that he wasn't going to use his authority to stop her tackling this incredibly dangerous mission.

Julia Bennett was one astonishing woman.

Did they breed them all like this in that little country at the bottom of the world? Pint-sized Amazons with rapier-sharp brains and a courage too deep to measure?

No. Mac checked the buckles on Julia's harness and tugged at the carabiner on the front one last time before moving to where he intended to operate the winch. This woman was a one-off. Totally unique. The first female to get through the rigorous selection process to gain access to this elite rescue squad, and he'd been lucky enough to be designated her partner.

Not that he'd felt like that first up, mind you. Neither had any of the guys on the other shifts. Mac had seen the relief in the glances exchanged at that team briefing so many weeks ago now. A foreigner was fine. They had people from all corners of the globe on staff. But a
girl
?

Not that a twenty-eight-year-old could be consid
ered anything less than a woman but her lack of height made her seem much younger. It didn't help that she had such a pretty, fragile kind of prettiness about her either. The spikes of that practical, pixie haircut did nothing to disguise her femininity and if the big, blue eyes that went with those blonde spikes could look like they did with no make-up, it was obvious that Jules could be a knock-out if she chose to be.

Nobody had expected to find that she considered herself ‘one of the boys' and was possibly more passionate about this job than they were. She had earned respect remarkably quickly, thanks to an early job that had involved a large portion of the squad when the remains of an old building had collapsed on a demolition crew. Julia had been the only one small enough to squeeze through a gap and she'd hung, upside down, like a determined little bat, for long enough to establish an airway and gain IV access on a man who would certainly have died otherwise.

Respect had become admiration from more than one of the guys but the polite rebuff of any personal overtures had added another dimension to a personality that was intriguing. Any commiseration Mac had received on being partnered with ‘the chick' had long since morphed into envy.

Yeah…he was lucky.

But here he was, letting this amazing woman step backwards off a broken bridge, his fingers on the controls that were now lowering her close to the dangling train carriage. If it fell, it would most likely take her with it and there would be nothing he could do
but watch. The tension was growing by the second as the small figure in the orange overalls slipped lower.

‘Keep going.' Julia's voice sounded clear and calm inside his helmet. ‘Seats are clear at the top. I can't see the bottom yet.'

He fed out the steel cable, inch by inch. He felt the jerk as Julia's steel-capped boots touched the side of the carriage and then her gloved hands reached to steady herself and cut the light reflecting on one of the large glass panels.

‘Stop!' The command was sharp. ‘I can see something.'

BOOK: Wishing for a Miracle
2.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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