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Just concentrate on work.
Jed said it over and over as he ran along the damp beach.
He ran daily, or tried to, depending on work commitments, but as much as he could Jed factored running into his dayit served as both his exercise and his relaxation, helped him to focus and to clear his head.
Just concentrate on work, he repeated, because after the last two hellish years he really did need to do just that.
Jed looked along the bay. The morning was a hazy one and he couldn't make out the Melbourne skyline in the distance. Not for the first time he questioned whether he had been right to take the position at the Peninsula Hospital or if he should have gone for a more prestigious city one.
Jed loved nothing more than a big city hospitalhe had worked and trained at a large teaching hospital in Sydney and had assumed, when he had applied for jobs in Melbourne, that the city was where he would end up, yet the interview at Peninsula Hospital that he had thought would be a more a cursory one had seen him change his mind.
It wasn't a teaching hospital but it was certainly a busy oneit served as a major trauma centre and had an NICU and ICU and Jed had liked the atmosphere at Peninsula, as well as the proximity to the beach. Perhaps the deciding factor, though, had been that he had also been told, confidentially, that one of the consultants was retiring and a position would be opening up in the not-too-distant future. His career had been building up to an emergency consultant position and, his disaster of a personal life aside, it was where he was ready to be. When Jed had handed in his notice six months ago an offer had been made and he'd been asked to reconsider leaving, but Jed had known then that he had to get away, that he had to start again.
But with new rules in place this time.
Jed missed not just Sydney and the hospital he had trained and worked at but his family and friendsit had been the first birthday of Luke, his newest nephew, yesterday, another thing he hadn't been able to get to, another family gathering he had missed, when before, even if he hadn't been able to get there on the day, he'd have dropped by over the weekend.
A phone call to a one-year-old wasn't exactly the same.
But the decision to move well away had surely been the right one.
Still he questioned it, still he wondered if he had overreacted and should have just stayed in Sydney and hoped it would work out, assumed it was all sorted.
What a mess.
Jed stopped for a moment and dragged in a few breaths.
Over and over he wondered if he could have handled things differently, if there was something he could have said to have changed things, or something he had done that had been misconstruedand yet still he could not come up with an answer.
It was incredibly warm for six a.m. but it wasn't a pleasant heatit was muggy and close and needed a good storm to clear it but, according to the weather reports, the cool change wasn't coming through till tonight.
'Morning.' He looked up and nodded to an old guy walking his dog. They shared a brief conversation about the weather and then Jed took a long drink of water before turning around to head for home and get ready for work.
He should never have got involved with Sa-mantha in the first place.
Still, he could hardly have seen that coming, couldn't have predicted the train wreck that had been about to take place, but then he corrected himself.
He should never have got involved with someone from work.
Jed picked up the pace again, his head finally clearing. He knew what he needed to focus on.
Just concentrate on work.
'Jasmine?' It wasn't the friendliest of greetings, and Jasmine jumped as the sound of Penny's voice stopped her in her tracks.
'What are you doing here?' her sister demanded.
'I'm here for an interview.' Jasmine stated what should be the obvious. 'I've just been for a security check.'
They were standing in the hospital admin corridor. Jasmine was holding a pile of forms and, despite her best efforts to appear smart and efficient for the interview, was looking just a little hot and botheredand all the more so for seeing Penny.
Summer had decided to give Melbourne one last sticky, humid day before it gave way to autumn and Jasmine's long dark curls had, despite an awful lot of hair serum and an awful lot of effort, frizzed during the walk from the car park to the accident and emergency department. It had continued its curly journey through her initial interview with Lisa, the nurse unit manager.
Now, as Penny ran a brief but, oh, so critical eye over her, Jasmine was acutely aware that the grey suit she reserved for interviews was, despite hundreds of sit-ups and exercising to a DVD, just a touch too tight.
Penny, of course, looked immaculate.
Her naturally straight, naturally blonde hair was tied back in an elegant chignonshe was wearing smart dark trousers and heeled shoes that accentuated her lean body. Her white blouse, despite it being afternoon, despite the fact she was a registrar in a busy accident and emergency department, was still impossibly crisp and clean.
No one could have guessed that they were sisters.
'An interview for what, exactly?' Penny's eyes narrowed.
'A nursing position,' Jasmine answered carefully. 'A clinical nurse specialist. I've just been to fill out the forms for a security check.' Jasmine was well aware her answer was vague and that she was evading the issue but of course it didn't workPenny was as direct as ever in her response.
'Where?' Penny asked. 'Where exactly have you applied to work?'
'Accident and Emergency,' Jasmine answered, doing her best to keep her voice even. 'Given that it's my speciality.'
'Oh, no.' Penny shook her head. 'No way.' Penny made no effort to keep her voice even, and she didn't mince her words either. 'I'm not having it, Jasmine, not for a single moment. You are not working in my department.'
'Where do you expect me to work, then, Penny?' She had known all along that this would be Penny's reactionit was the very reason she had put off telling her sister about the application, the very reason she hadn't mentioned the interview when they had met up at Mum's last Sunday for a celebratory dinner to toast Penny's latest career victory. 'I'm an emergency nurse, that's what I do.'
'Well, go and do it somewhere else. Go and work at the hospital you trained in, because there is no way on earth that I am working alongside my sister.'
'I can't commute to the city,' Jasmine said. 'Do you really expect me to drag Simon for an hour each way just so that I don't embarrass my big sister?' It was ridiculous to suggest and what was even more ridiculous was that Jasmine had actually considered it, well aware how prickly Penny could be.
Jasmine had looked into it, but with a one-year-old to consider, unless she moved nearer to the city, it would prove impossible and also, in truth, she was just too embarrassed to go back to her old workplace.
'You know people there,' Penny insisted.
'Jasmine, if the reason you're not going back there is because of Lloyd '
'Leave it, Penny.' Jasmine closed her eyes for a second. She didn't want to go back to where everyone knew her past, where her life had been the centre stage show for rather too long. 'It has nothing to do with Lloyd. I just want to be closer to home.'
She didwith her marriage completely over and her soon-to-be ex-husband having nothing to do with either her or her son and her maternity leave well and truly up, Jasmine had made the decision to move back to the beachside suburb to be close to the family home and the smart townhouse where her sister lived and to start over again, but with family nearby.
She wanted to be closer to her mum, to her sister and, yes, she wanted some support, but clearly she wasn't going to get any from Penny.
It was career first, last and always for Penny, but then again it was the same with their mum. A real estate agent, though now semi-retired, Louise Masters had made a name for herself in their bayside village for being tough and no-nonsense. It was the rather more dreamy Jasmine who did stupid things like take risks with her heart and actually switch off from work on her days offnot that she didn't love her work, it just wasn't all that she was.
'We'll talk about this later.' Penny's blue eyes flashed angrilyit was the only feature that they shared. 'And don't you dare go using my name to get the job.'
'As if I'd do that,' Jasmine said. 'Anyway, we don't even share the same surname, Miss Masters.'
Penny was now officially a Missthe title given to females once they gained their fellowship. It caused some confusion at times, but Penny had worked extremely hard to be a Miss rather than a Doctorand she wasn't about to have anyone drag on her coat-tails as she continued to ride high.
'I mean it,' Penny flared. 'You are not to even let on that you know me. I'm really not happy about this, Jasmine.'
'Hey, Penny.' Her sister turned, and so too did Jasmine, to the sound of a deep, low voice. Had Jasmine not been so numb right now, so immune and resistant to all things male, she might have more properly noticed just how good looking this man was. He was very tall and though his dark brown hair was cut fairly short it was just a bit rumpled, as was his suit.
Yes, a couple of years ago she might have taken note, but not now.
She just wanted him gone so that she could get back to the rather important conversation she had been having with Penny.
'It's getting busy down there apparently,' he said to Penny. 'They just called and asked me to come back from lunch.'
'I know,' came Penny's clipped response. 'I've just been paged. I was supposed to be speaking with Legal.'
Perhaps he picked up on the tension because he looked from Penny to Jasmine and she noticed then that his eyes were green and that his jaw needed shaving and, yes, despite being completely not interested, some long-dormant cells demanded that she at least deign to acknowledge just how attractive he was, especially when his deep voice spoke on. 'Sorry, am I disturbing something?'
'Not at all.' Penny's response was rapid. 'This nurse was just asking for directions to get back to Emergencyshe's got an interview there.'
'You can hardly miss the place.' He gave a wry smile and nodded to a huge red arrow above them. 'Follow us.'
'Mrs Phillips?' Jasmine turned as she heard her name and saw it was the receptionist from Security, where she had just come from. 'You left your driving licence.'
'Thank you.' Jasmine opened her mouth to say that she was soon to be a Ms, but it seemed churlish to correct it as technically she was still a Mrsit was there on her driving licence after all. Still, in a few weeks' time she'd be a Ms and she'd tell everyone the same.
Jasmine couldn't wait for the glorious day.
For now, though, she followed Penny and her colleague towards Emergency.
'I didn't mean to literally follow,' Jed said, and he waited a second for her to catch up. Jasmine fell into reluctant step alongside them. 'I'm Jed.. Jed DevlinI'm a registrar in the madhouse, as is Penny.'
'Jasmine.' She duly answered. 'Jasmine Phillips.'
'So?' he asked as Penny clipped noisily alongside them. She could hear the anger in her sister's footsteps, could feel the tension that was ever present whenever the two of them were together. 'When do you start?'
'I haven't got the job yet,' Jasmine said.
'Sounds promising, though, if you've been sent up to Security.'
'They have to do a security check on everyone,' Penny said abruptly.
They all walked on in silence for a few moments.
'Here we are,' Jed said. 'See that big red sign that says "Accident and Emergency"?'
'How could I miss it?' She gave a brief smile at his teasing as they headed through the swing doors and stepped into Emergency. 'Thanks.'
'Good luck,' Jed said.
Of course Penny didn't offer her best wishes. Instead, she marched off on her high heels and for a second Jasmine stood there and blew out a breath, wondering if she was mad to be doing this.
It clearly wasn't going to work.
And then she realised that Jed was still standing there.
'Do I know you?' He frowned.
'I don't think so,' Jasmine said, while reluctantly admitting to herself that they had definitely never methis was a face she certainly wouldn't forget.
'Have you worked in Sydney?'
Jasmine shook her head.
'Where did you work before?'
She started to go red. She hated talking about her time thereshe'd loved it so much and it had all ended so terribly, but she could hardly tell him that. 'Melbourne Central. I trained there and worked in Emergency there till I had my son.'
'Nice hospital,' Jed said. 'I had an interview there when I first moved to the area, but no.' He shook his head. 'That's not it. You just look familiar.'
He surely hadn't picked up that she and Penny were sisters? No one ever had. She and Penny were complete opposites, not just in looks but also in personality. Penny was completely focussed and determined, whereas Jasmine was rather more impulsive, at least she had been once. She was also, as her mother had frequently pointed out throughout her childhood whenever Jasmine had burst into tears, too sensitive.
'There you are!' Jasmine turned as Lisa came over and Jed made his excuses and wandered off.
'Sorry,' Jasmine said to Lisa. 'They took ages to find all the forms I needed.'
'That's Admin for you,' Lisa said. 'Right, I'll walk you through the department and give you a feel for the place. It just got busy.'
It certainly had.
It had been almost empty when Jasmine had first arrived for her interview and the walk to Lisa's office had shown a calm, even quiet department, compared to the busy city one Jasmine was more used to. Now, though, the cubicles were all full and she could see staff rushing and hear the emergency bell trilling from Resus. Not for the first time, Jasmine wondered if she was up to the demands of going back to work in a busy emergency department.
The last two years had left her so raw and confused that all she really wanted to do was to curl up and sleep before she tackled the process of healing and resuming work, but her ex didn't want to see their son, let alone pay child support, and there was no point going through appropriate channelsshe couldn't wait the time it would take to squeeze blood from a stone, but more than that Jasmine wanted to support her son herself, which meant that she needed a job.
However much it inconvenienced Penny and however daunted she was at the prospect.
'We do our best with the roster. I always try to accommodate specific requests, but as far as regular shifts go I can't make allowances for anyone,' Lisa explainedshe knew about Simon and had told Jasmine that there were a couple of other single mums working there who, she was sure, would be a huge support. 'And I've rung the creche and said that you'll be coming over to have a look around, but you know that they close at six and that on a late shift you don't generally get out till well after nine?'
Jasmine nodded. 'My mum's said that she'll help out for a little while.' Jasmine stated this far more generously than her mother had. 'At least until I sort out a babysitter.'
'What about night shifts?' Lisa checked. 'Everyone has to do themit's only fair.'