From Christmas to Eternity [NOOK Book]

Overview

When consultant Andy Gallagher temporarily loses his ability to speak, it puts even more strain on his marriage to GP Lucy. But as the first snowflakes fall, Andy realizes what's important: winning back his wife. Only, he's lost without words—and will need a Christmas miracle to convince Lucy of how he really feels….

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From Christmas to Eternity

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Overview

When consultant Andy Gallagher temporarily loses his ability to speak, it puts even more strain on his marriage to GP Lucy. But as the first snowflakes fall, Andy realizes what's important: winning back his wife. Only, he's lost without words—and will need a Christmas miracle to convince Lucy of how he really feels….

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781460301401
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 1/1/2013
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,341,324
  • File size: 187 KB

Meet the Author

Caroline Anderson's been a nurse, a secretary, a teacher, and has run her own business. Now she’s settled on writing. ‘I was looking for that elusive something and finally realised it was variety - now I have it in abundance. Every book brings new horizons, new friends, and in between books I juggle! My husband John and I have two beautiful daughters, Sarah and Hannah, umpteen pets, and several acres of Suffolk that nature tries to reclaim every time we turn our backs!’

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Read an Excerpt

'Hi, this is the Gallaghers' phone, leave a message and we'll get back to you.'

Andy glanced at the clock and frowned. Six o'clock? When did that happen? And of course she wasn't answering, she'd be feeding and bathing the children. Just as well, perhaps. He knew she'd go off the deep end but there was nothing he could do about it. No doubt she'd add it to the ever-growing list of his failings, he thought tiredly, and scrubbed a hand through his hair.

'Luce, don't bother to cook for me, the lo-cum's bailed so I'm covering the late shift. I'll grab something here and I'll see you at midnight.'

He slid the phone back into his pocket and shut his eyes for a moment.

He didn't need this. He had an assignment to finish writing by tomorrow for a course he'd stupidly undertaken, but they were a doctor down and it was Friday night. And Friday night in A&E was best friends with hell on earth, so there was no way he could leave it to a junior doctor.

For the hundredth time he wished he hadn't taken on the course. Why had he thought it was a good idea? Goodness knows, except it would give him another skill that would benefit his patients—assuming he was still alive by the end of it and Lucy hadn't killed him.

He heard the doors swish open, and knew it was kicking off already.

'Right, what have we got?' he asked, turning towards the trolley that was being wheeled in.

'Twenty-year-old male driver of a stolen car versus brick wall.' The paramedic rattled off the stats while Andy did a quick visual check.

Not good. Hoping it wasn't an omen for the coming night, he gave a short sigh and started work. Again.

'Noooooooo! Oh, Andy, no, you can't do this to me!' Lucy wailed, and sat down with a plop on the bottom step.

A little bottom wriggled onto the step beside her, Emily's hip nudging hers as she cuddled in close. 'What's wrong, Mummy? Has Daddy been naughty?'

She gritted her teeth. Only her staunch belief in presenting a united front stopped her from throwing him to the wolves, but she was so tempted. He absolutely deserved it this time.

'Not naughty, exactly. He's forgotten he's babysitting you while I go out, and he's working another shift.'

'Well, he can't,' Em said with the straightforward logic of the very young. 'Not if he promised. That's what he tells us. "You can't break a promise." So he has to do it. Ring him and tell him.'

If only it were that easy. She stared at Em, her hair scraped into messy bunches that sprouted from her head at different heights. She'd tied them in ribbons and Lucy knew it would take an age to get the knots out, but she didn't care. Just looking at her little daughter made her heart squeeze with love.

'Go on, Mummy. Ring him.'

Could it be that straightforward?

Maybe.

She called him back, and it went straight to voicemail. No surprises there, then. She sucked in a breath and left a blunt message.

'Andy, you promised to babysit tonight. I've got book club at seven thirty. You'll have to get someone else to cover.'

She hung up, and smiled down at Emily.

'There.'

'See?' Em said, grinning back. 'Now he'll have to come home.'

Lucy had her doubts. Where work was concerned, everything—everybody—else came second. She fed the children, ran the bath and dunked Lottie in it, then left the girls playing in the water while she gave the baby her nighttime feed, and still he hadn't called.

She wasn't surprised. Not by that. What surprised her was that even now he still had the power to disappoint her…

It took an hour to assess and stabilise the driver, and just five seconds to check his phone and realise he was in nearly as much trouble as the young man was.

He phoned Lucy again, and she answered on the first ring.

'Luce, I'm sorry—'

'Never mind being sorry. Just get home quickly.'

'I can't. I told you. I'm needed to cover the department.'

'No. Somebody's needed to cover the department. It doesn't have to be you.'

'It does if I'm the only senior person available. Just get another babysitter. It can't be that hard.'

'At this short notice? You're kidding. Why can't you get another doctor? It can't be that hard,' she parroted back at him.

He sighed and rammed his hand through his hair again, ready to tear it out. 'I think a babysitter might be a little easier to find than an ED consultant,' he said crisply, nodding at the SHO who was waving frantically at him. 'Sorry, got to go. I'll see you later.'

Lucy put the phone down and looked into her baby's startlingly blue eyes. 'Oh, Lottie, what are we going to do with him?' she asked with a slightly shaky sigh.

The baby giggled and reached up a chubby fist to grab her hair.

'Don't you laugh at me,' she said, prising the sticky little fingers off and smiling despite herself. 'You're supposed to be asleep, young lady, and your daddy's supposed to be at home and I'm supposed to be going out to my book club. But that doesn't matter, does it? It doesn't matter what I want to do, because I'm at the bottom of the heap, somewhere underneath Stanley.'

The young black Lab, sitting by her leg doing a passable imitation of a starving rescue case, wagged his tail hopefully when he heard his name.

No wonder! Guilt washed over her, and she swallowed down the suddenly threatening tears.

'Sorry, boy,' she crooned, scratching his ears. 'I'm a rotten mum. Five minutes, I promise.'

She settled the yawning baby in her cot, fed the poor forgotten dog and then headed upstairs again to herd Emily and Megan out of the bath and into bed. She'd try ringing round a few friends. There must be someone who wasn't doing anything this evening who owed her a favour.

Apparently not.

So she phoned and apologised to Judith, and then changed into her pyjamas and settled down in front of the television with a glass of wine, a bar of chocolate and a book.

She might not be going out tonight, but she was blowed if she was working. Stuff the ironing. Stuff the washing up. Stuff all of it. As far as she was concerned, she was out, and it would all still be there in the morning.

Angry, defiant and underneath it all feeling a little sad for everything they'd lost, she rested her head back against the snuggly chenille sofa cushion and let out a long, unsteady sigh.

They'd had a good marriage once; a really good marriage.

It seemed like a lifetime ago.

The house was in darkness. Well, of course it was. Even if she'd managed to get a babysitter, she'd have been back long ago. He pressed the remote control and the garage door slid open and slid shut again behind him as he switched off the engine and let himself into the house through the connecting door.

There was a bottle of wine on the side, a third of it gone, and the remains of a chocolate wrapper. The kitchen was a mess, the dishwasher hanging open, half loaded, the plates licked clean by Stanley.

The dog ambled out of his bed and came wagging up, smiling his ridiculous smile of greeting, and Andy bent down and rubbed his head.

'Hello, old son. Am I sleeping with you tonight?' he asked softly, and Stanley thumped his tail against the cupboard doors, as if the idea was a good one.

Not for the future of their marriage, Andy thought with a sigh, and eyed the bottle of wine.

It was after midnight. Quite a lot after. And he still had to finish the assignment. God, he was tired. Too tired to do it, too wired to sleep.

He took a glass out of the cupboard, sloshed some wine into it and headed for the study. There was a relevant paper he'd been reading, but he'd given up on it. He'd just read it through again, see if it was any less impenetrable now than it had been last night.

Not much, he realised a while later. He was too tired to concentrate, and the grammar was so convoluted it didn't make sense, no matter how many times he read it.

He needed to go to bed—but that meant facing Lucy, and the last thing he needed tonight was to have his head ripped off. Even if it was deserved. Dammit, there was a note on his phone, and it was in his diary. How could he have overlooked it?

And would it have made any difference, in the end? There'd been no one to cover the shift when the locum booked for it had rung in sick, and he'd had to twist his own registrar's arm to get him to come in at midnight and take over.

He let out a heavy sigh, gave the dog a biscuit in his bed and headed up the stairs with all the enthusiasm of a French nobleman heading for the guillotine.

She'd heard the crunch of gravel under tyres, heard the garage door slide open and closed, heard the murmur of his voice as he talked to the dog. And then silence.

He'd gone into the study, she realised, peering out of the bedroom window and seeing the spill of light across the drive.

Why hadn't he come to bed?

Guilt?

Indifference?

It could have been either, because he surely wasn't still working. She felt the crushing weight of sadness overwhelm her. She didn't know him any more. It was like living with a stranger. He hardly spoke, all his utterances monosyllabic, and the dry wit which had been his trademark seemed to have been wiped away since Lottie's birth.

And she couldn't do it any more.

She heard the stairs creak, and turned on her side away from him. She heard the bathroom door close, water running, the click of the light switch as he came out then felt the mattress dip slightly.

'Luce?'

His voice came softly to her in the darkness, deep and gruff, the word slightly slurred with tiredness.

She bit her lip. She wasn't going to do this, wasn't going to let him try and win her round. She knew what would happen if she spoke. He'd apologise, nuzzle her neck, kiss her, and then her traitorous body would forgive him everything and the moment would be lost, swept under the carpet as usual.

Well, not this time. This time they were going to talk about it.

Tomorrow. Without fail.

He lay beside her in the silence of the night, listening to the quiet, slightly uneven sound of her breathing.

She wasn't asleep. He knew that, but he wasn't going to push it. He was too tired to be reasonable, and they'd end up having an almighty row and flaying each other to shreds.

Except they hadn't even done that recently.

They hadn't done anything much together recently, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd made love to her.

Weeks ago?

Months?

No. Surely not months.

He was too tired to work it out, but the hollow ache of regret in his chest was preventing him from sleeping, and he lay there, staring at the ghostly white moonlight filtering round the edge of the curtains, until exhaustion won and he finally fell asleep.

'Did he come home?'

'Not until very, very late,' she told Emily. 'Here, eat your toast. Megan's had hers.'

She painstakingly spread butter onto the toast, then stuck the buttery knife into the chocolate spread and smeared it on the toast, precisely edge to edge, her tongue sticking slightly out of the side of her mouth in concentration. When it was all done to her satisfaction, she looked up and said, 'So didn't you go at all? Even later?'

'No. It doesn't matter.'

'Yes, it does, Mummy. He broke a promise!'

She blinked away the tears and hugged her daughter. Their daughter. So like her father—the floppy dark hair, the slate blue eyes, the tilt of her lips—everything. Megan with her light brown curls and clear green eyes was the image of her mother, but Emily and Lottie were little clones of Andy, and just looking at them broke her heart.

Em was so straightforward, so honest and kind and loving, everything she'd fallen for in Andy. But now…

'Where is he? Is he still sleeping?'

'I think so. He came to bed very late, so I left him. What do you want to do today?'

'Something with Daddy.'

'Can we feed the ducks?' Megan asked, glancing up from the dog's bed where she was curled up with Stanley gently pulling his ears up into points. The patient dog loved Megan, and tolerated almost anything. 'Stanley likes to feed the ducks.'

'Only because you give him the bread,' she said drily. 'Yes, we can feed the ducks.'

'I'll go and wake Daddy up,' Emily said, jumping down off her chair and sprinting for the stairs.

'Em, no! Leave him to sleep—'

But it was too late. She heard voices on the landing, and realised Andy must already be up. The stairs creaked, and her heart began to thump a little harder, the impending confrontation that had been eating at her all night rearing its ugly head over the breakfast table.

'Daddy, you have to say sorry to Mummy because you broke a promise,' Em said, towing him into the kitchen, and Lucy looked up and met his stony gaze and her heart sank.

'I had no choice. Didn't Mummy explain that to you? She should have done. I can't leave people to die, Em, promise or not. That's my biggest promise, and it has to come first.'

'Then you shouldn't have promised Mummy.'

'I would have thought our marriage vows were your biggest promise,' Lucy said softly, and he felt a knife twist in his heart.

'Don't go there, Luce. That isn't fair.'

'Isn't it?'

His glance flicked over the children warningly, and she nodded. 'Girls, go and get washed and dressed.'

'Are we feeding the ducks?'

'Yes,' Lucy said, and they pelted for the door.

'I want to carry the bread—'

'No, you give it all to Stanley—'

'Are we feeding the ducks?' he asked when their thundering footsteps had receded, and she shrugged.

'I don't know. I am, and they are. Are you going to deign to join us?'

'Luce, that's bloody unfair—

'No, it's not. You're bloody unfair. And don't swear in front of Lottie.'

He clamped his teeth together on the retort and turned to the kettle.

'For heaven's sake, Lucy, you're being totally unreasonable. I didn't have a choice, I let you know, I apologised—'

'So that's all right, is it? You apologised, so it makes it all OK? What about our marriage vows, Andy? Don't they mean anything to you any more? Don't I mean anything? Don't we? Us, you and me, and the children we've had together? Because right now it doesn't feel like it. It feels like we no longer have a marriage.'

He turned and stared at her as if she was mad. 'Of course we do,' he said, his voice slightly impatient as if her faculties were impaired. 'It's just a rough time. We're ridiculously understaffed at work till James gets back, and I'm trying to get this assignment done, but it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with our marriage.'

'Doesn't it? Just sleeping here for a few hours a night doesn't qualify as marriage, Andy. Being here, wanting to be here—that's a marriage, not taking every shift that's going and filling your life with one academic exercise after another just so you can avoid us!'

'Now you're really being ridiculous! I don't have time for this—'

'No, of course you don't, that would involve talking to me, having a conversation! And we all know you won't do that!'

He stalked off, shut the study door firmly and left her there fuming, the subject once again brushed aside.

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