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Authors: Alison Roberts

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BOOK: Wishing for a Miracle
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Mac leaned past her to drop a new pack of luer plugs onto one of the piles. ‘We make a good team,' he said. ‘That's all.'

There. He'd said it aloud and he could feel the way Julia stilled for a moment. As though she was capturing his words and soaking in their significance. The kiss was history. They were colleagues again. Nothing more.

‘What about the other guy?' Mac was grateful for the voice of the paramedic. Moving them on and chasing that moment into the past, where it belonged—along with that unfortunate kiss.

‘You mean Ken?' Was he imagining any strain in her voice? ‘The one with the spinal injury?'


tricky,' she said. No. She sounded normal. Delighted to be discussing something professional. ‘There was a bit more to worry about than there would have been getting him out of, say, a car crash. We knew we had to get him out of the seat and then up the aisle before we could keep him horizontal.'

‘Did you use a KED?'

‘Absolutely. Couldn't have managed without one.'

‘What level was the lesion?'

‘Reasonably high. Paresthesia in both hands.'

‘Diaphragmatic breathing?'

‘No. And he didn't go into a significant level of neurogenic shock, fortunately.'

Mac was only half listening, vaguely irritated by the chatter without knowing why. He kept himself busy sorting an airway roll and putting endotracheal tubes into order by size, finding the guide wires and bite blocks to put back into their correct slots, but he found himself wishing some road-based pagers would sound.

Finally, they did.

‘Priority three,' the paramedic said, clearly disappointed. ‘Probably a transfer. If you guys get something good happening while we're out, you'll owe us a beer.'

A vaguely tense silence fell once they were alone in
the messroom again. Mac fiddled with the kit, making sure everything was perfectly aligned. He was simply too aware of their proximity, that was all. Too aware that the kiss had changed something. It had been a mistake on both sides and they were both doing their best to pretend it hadn't happened, but it had and now it was just…there.

But they couldn't talk about it. If they did, it would be tantamount to admitting attraction and Mac didn't want that conversation. He didn't want to talk about it. He didn't want to
about it because if he did, he couldn't control the pull that came in its wake.

A pull towards something he really didn't want. Territory he was more than content to be exiled from. This pull was stronger than anything he'd come across in ten years of voluntary exile. And for the first time it felt like he was in a place he might not want to be in for much longer.

A lonely place.

He didn't like that feeling. It was a relief when Julia broke the silence.


He looked up. Hell…there was a plea in her eyes. She wanted something from him and if she asked, it might take more strength than he had to refuse.

‘Mmm?' It was a noncommittal sound.

‘Do you think…if it stays this quiet…?'

She was hesitant. About to ask for something that might not be entirely professional? Mac's mouth went curiously dry.

‘I was hoping…' Julia's smile was mischievous ‘…that we might be able to sneak out and go and visit Ken.'


Mac was quiet again.

He was driving the late-model SUV that was the SERT team's road vehicle, having checked with Control that it was all right for them to head into the city to visit the hospital Ken had been admitted to. If necessary, they could head for the helipad or any other job at a moment's notice.

This car had only the front seats. The back was packed with all the equipment they could need in an emergency but there was no stretcher. It was used as an advance vehicle to get to a major incident first, an area where no ambulance was available or as back-up for a serious case. An ambulance had to be dispatched as well for transporting any patients and sometimes, if the patient required treatment beyond the skill level of an available road crew, they would have to abandon this vehicle to travel to the hospital and then retrieve it later.

Julia was becoming increasingly aware of how quiet Mac was as she listened in on the radio traffic. The blips advertising a new message were coming thick and fast. An ambulance was being dispatched to a three car pile-up. Someone else was reporting an NFA from another scene. No further assistance was required there because it was a DOA rather than the cardiac arrest that had been called in. A crew patched through advance notice of a critically ill stroke patient they were transporting to a receiving emergency department and a vehicle was being sent to a rural area to be on standby while the fire service dealt with a house fire.

Busy but nothing out of the ordinary. Julia had her fingers crossed that a call wouldn't come in the next little while. Long enough for them to visit Ken and see how he was getting on. And long enough to find out why Mac seemed to have withdrawn again.

Not as much as he had the other night, travelling back from the train crash but enough to worry Julia and chip away at this morning's relief when it had seemed like they could get past any awkward aftermath of that kiss. His message had been received loud and clear. They were a good team and that was all, but they'd never had this odd tension between them before. Silences that became loaded so quickly.

And Mac had made a tentative step towards friendship this morning, hadn't he? She could reciprocate and maybe that would be enough to fix things properly.

‘So…' Having made the resolution, Julia impulsively reached out to turn down the volume of the radio. ‘Fair's fair, Mac.'

He shot her a wary glance.

‘I mean, I'm feeling at a disadvantage now. Like I haven't had

The look was a frown this time. ‘I'm not following you. What have I had that you haven't?'


‘Such as?'

‘Well, you know a lot more about me than I do about you.'

Mac was staring into the side mirror, watching for an opportunity to change lanes. ‘Not that much.'

‘Enough,' Julia said firmly. She switched off the tiny
voice at the back of her mind that was suggesting she might be making a mistake here. ‘It's my turn,' she continued. ‘I want to know about you.'

Mac was still concentrating on his driving. He changed lanes twice and then indicated an upcoming turn but Julia was watching his face just as carefully and she saw something in the softening of his features that suggested her interest might not be unwelcome. That encouragement was more than enough to switch off that annoying little voice.

‘You know heaps,' Mac said. ‘How old I am, where I come from, where I did my training. How I like my coffee.' He gave her just the hint of a crooked smile. ‘All the important stuff.'

Julia laughed, shaking her head. ‘That last one's going to come back and bite you, mate. And I'm not talking about work stuff. I'm talking about the kinds of things friends might talk about. We
friends, aren't we?'

Friends. It was such a nice, safe word. She could definitely detect a lessening of any tension in the atmosphere now.

‘You want to talk about football? Wrestling, maybe?'

Julia's breath hitched. No, not wrestling. ‘That's boy stuff,' she said dismissively. ‘I'm talking family. Like what you know about me. Brothers, sisters, ex-wives…that sort of thing.'

Oh…God! What on earth had made that come out? This wasn't the time to diffuse tension by cracking stupid jokes.

Mac looked as startled as she was herself. ‘You want to know about my ex-wife?'

Julia swallowed. ‘You

A tiny pause and then a huff of sound that had an unmistakably ironic twinge. ‘No.'

She had to laugh again, to hide the flash of…what was it, relief? Elation? Something entirely inappropriate, anyway. This was supposed to be a joke. Something light that would make Mac smile.

‘That's two,' she told him sternly. ‘Any more and I can't promise you'll survive the retribution.'

Mac chuckled. ‘OK, shoot. My past history is an open book.'

Was it? Could she ask about the blonde woman?

No. She didn't want to know. It was none of her business because this was about friendship, not romance.





‘You're an only child?'

Mac sighed. ‘Did you really get your degree with honours?'

Julia ignored the insult. ‘I wouldn't have picked it, that's all.'

‘Why? Do I seem spoilt? Self-centred and socially insensitive or something?'

‘Not at all.' The idea of applying any of those criticisms to Mac was ludicrous. ‘I was kind of an only child myself, you know, what with Anne turning into my mother.'

Mac turned off onto another road and Julia saw the sign indicating the route to the Eastern Infirmary—the
hospital they were heading for. This conversation would have to end very soon and she hadn't stepped off first base, really. Mac was going all silent again so it was up to her to say something.

‘It's just that you're such a people person,' she said carefully. ‘You get on so well with everybody and you love kids. I had this picture in my head of you being the oldest in a big family. The big brother, you know?'

Mac turned into the car park. ‘I wish,' he said quietly, choosing an empty slot to swing the vehicle into. ‘A big family was something I always dreamed of.' He pulled on the hand brake and cut the engine.

Something inside Julia died right along with the engine.

The tiny hope that this could have been something. That they didn't have to bury that kiss and make it go away.

It was something in Mac's tone. A wistfulness that told her a big family was a dream that mattered a lot. Something he hadn't had as a child but he could—and should—be able to realise it as a father.

The road that led further than that kiss could never go in that direction and she owed it to Mac not to let either of them take it further.

Not that he was showing the slightest sign of wanting to but she could have kept hoping and now she wasn't going to. And that was good. Any potential for an emotional ride that could only end in a painful crash was being removed.

‘Come on, then.' Julia reached for the door latch. ‘Let's go and find Ken.'


Their spinal injury patient from the train carriage was still in the intensive care unit but he was awake and seemed delighted to see his visitors.

‘Hey, Jules! You've come to see me.'

‘I said I would.' Julia's smile was lighting up her whole face and it wasn't just Ken who was captured by its warmth. Mac had to make an effort to look away and find something else compelling enough to compete with that smile.

‘I probably won't need surgery.' Ken sounded tired but quite happy to discuss his treatment with the person who'd played such a big part in his rescue.

‘That's fantastic,' Julia said. ‘So the doctors are happy with you?'

‘So far. They've warned me it's going to be a long road to any recovery and they said we won't know how bad things will end up being until after the spinal shock wears off, and that can take weeks.'

Julia was nodding, her face sympathetic. Then she glanced up at the wall behind his bed which was plastered with get-well cards.

‘So many cards,' she said. ‘You're a popular man, Ken. I reckon I'd be lucky to get two if I was lying in that bed.'

‘I doubt that.' Ken's tone was admiring. So was the gaze he had fixed on Julia. Mac felt a kind of growl rumbling in his chest. He cleared his throat.

‘What was the verdict?' he asked. ‘As far as damage?'

‘A fracture/dislocation in C6/7 and a fracture in…um…I think it was T8. Does that mean anything?'

Mac smiled. ‘Sure does. Any changes in your symptoms in the last couple of days?'

‘The pins and needles have gone from my hands. I've got them in my feet instead but they say that's a good thing.'

‘It is,' Julia agreed. ‘And the earlier you see an improvement, the more likely things are to end up better than you might expect.'

‘Pretty much what my doctor said.' Ken had that slightly awed tone back again. ‘You really know your stuff, don't you?'

‘I'm still learning.' Julia's gaze flicked to Mac and she smiled.

The smile said that she was learning from him and that she was grateful. It made Mac feel important. Necessary. He had things he could give her, like knowledge and new skills. Not that he hadn't already been doing that but it seemed more significant now. The way everything happening between them did.

The pleasurable pride faded abruptly, however, as Mac realised what that significance was. Julia had just reminded him of his position as her mentor. Of her passion for her career and why she was here.

The sound of their pagers curtailed the visit. Julia promised to visit again on her next day off and Mac was aware of another unpleasant splash of emotion.


If it was, it was easily dealt with because Mac also realised that Julia had just handed him exactly what he needed.

The key to be able to lock that box.

It wasn't that the reminder of Christine hadn't been enough to warn him off. This was a bonus. Julia wasn't
just a woman whose career was the most important thing to her, he was her senior colleague. Her teacher. In a position of authority. To step over professional boundaries into anything more personal simply wasn't acceptable and his reputation and status in his chosen field of work were everything to him.

This was the key.

He would talk to Julia about spinal injuries on their way to this callout. He would quiz her about spinal oedema and paralytic ileus and the scientific evidence that an early infusion of methyl prednisolone could minimise any ongoing damage to the spinal cord.

BOOK: Wishing for a Miracle
2.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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