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Reggie Smith raced into the outpatient clinic, smiling and waving to the patients who were awaiting her attention. The clinic was decorated with tinsel and baubles and a sad-looking branch from a gum tree had been potted in the corner, dressed with twinkle lights in an effort to add a bit of festive cheer to the people waiting to see the doctor.
Christmas was Reggie's favourite time of year because it always brought hope and she was a big believer in hope. Plus, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, everyone seemed to be in a happier mood, calling a quick 'Have a great Christmas' or 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy holidays'. Of course, Sunshine General Hospital was also abuzz with the annual hospital auction to be held ten days before Christmas and as Reggie was part of the organising committee, there was still much to do.
'Four weeks until Christmas and I haven't even started my shopping,' one of her closest friends, Mackenzie, had said to her only yesterday as they'd finalised the venue for the hospital auction.
'I'm almost done.' Reggie had grinned widely.
'Show-off,' Mackenzie had returned.
Even thinking about it made Reggie smile as she screeched to a halt at the outpatient clinic desk. 'Sorry, sorry,' she called brightly. 'I was held up in A and E. Sorry, sorry.' Her words were genuine as she honestly didn't like to keep people waiting but sometimes, especially where she was concerned, time seemed to have a habit of disappearing.
'It's just like you, Reggie.' Clara, the clerk, smiled as she pointed to a bundle of case notes, indicating they were Reggie's patients for the morning. 'Luckily, the new general surgeon covering Geetha's maternity leave has already started the clinic so you shouldn't be too far behind.'
'I didn't think Geetha was leaving for another week,' Reggie said as she hefted the notes into her arms.
'Handover period,' Clara offered. 'Don't you ever read your emails?'
Reggie's answer was to grin and shrug. 'You know me!' She looked at the top name on the case notes in her arms. 'Er.. Mr Searle. Would you like to come on through?'
She waited while Mr Searle, an elderly man in his sixties, stood and started walking towards her, barely leaning on the walking stick in his right hand.
'You're walking really well,' she said, clearly impressed as the two of them walked slowly down the corridor towards her consulting room. 'I spoke to Mackenzie, your orthopaedic surgeon, the other day and she told me how pleased she was with your progress. After today's check-up, you might be able to get a break from this place for a while.'
'I'm looking forward to it,' Mr Searle replied as he headed through into her consulting room. 'No offence intended,' he added.
'None taken,' she remarked, waving her hand in the air with a dramatic flourish. 'I love it when my patients are well enough to get back to living their normal lives.' Her eyes were alive with delight, her voice filled with happiness, but as she turned to close her consulting-room door, the door directly opposite hers opened.
The smile slowly slid from Reggie's face, her eyes widened in shock, and her jaw dropped open in disbelief as Flynn Jamie-sonthe Flynn Jamiesonstood opposite her. He was dressed in a pair of navy trousers, a crisp white shirt and striped university tie. His hands were on his hips as he stared at her with his piercing blue eyes.
'Do you have to be so noisy, Reg?'
At the use of the familiar name, especially as he was the only person she'd ever allowed to call her that, Reggie's eyes flashed with fire as annoyance replaced surprise. 'Please don't call me that. Excuse me.' With that, she closed her consulting-room door, effectively shutting out the sight of him.
She leaned against the door and closed her eyes for a moment, unable to ignore the repressed pulsing desire, the one only Flynn could evoke, and the way her entire body seemed to be trembling just from the sight of him. What on earth was Flynn Jamieson doing here? In Australia? In Queensland? In Maroochydore? In Sunshine General Hospitalher hospital?
No sooner had the questions started running around in her head than the answer materialised like magic. 'Surgeon covering Geetha's maternity leave,' she whispered. Why, oh, why hadn't she read her emails? The head of the surgery department was a great communicator, always keeping the surgical staff informed with the latest happenings, but it was Reggie who was the bad receiver of these communications, which meant she really had no one else to blame but herself for being shocked at Flynn's appearance.
'Reggie?' Mr Searle's voice brought her attention back to the present and she quickly opened her eyes and pasted on a smile, forcing herself to push all thoughts of the disturbing Flynn Jamieson to the back of her mind. So what if he was here? So what if she would be required to work with him? She'd worked with him before and they'd made a good professional team. The fact that he'd broken her heart six years ago meant nothing to her now. He meant nothing to her now. Nothing at all.
'Sorry, Mr Searle.' Reggie dragged in a breath and placed the pile of case notes on the desk, taking Mr Searle's from the top and opening them up as she sat down in the chair. 'Let's get your examination underway.'
For the rest of the Monday morning outpatient clinic Reggie did her utmost to avoid any and all contact with Flynn, forcing herself to focus on being her usual bright and cheerful self for the sake of her patients. They deserved nothing less but once her last patient for the morning had exited her consulting room, Reggie immediately picked up the receiver of the internal hospital phone and called Mackenzie.
'It's Reggie,' she stated before Mackenzie could even squeeze out a 'hello'. 'We have to meet. Are you free? Coffee shop across the road from the hospital in ten minutes?'
'I think I can do that. What's wrong, Reggie?'
'The worst thing possible.'
Reggie could hear the worry in Mackenzie's voice but it was nothing compared to the utter panic and devastation in her own. 'It's Flynn. He's here!'
'This is an emergency,' Reggie told her friends fifteen minutes later as they all sat round a table, sipping coffee.
'I cannot believe Flynn is back,' Sunainah said, her sparkling new wedding rings gleaming brightly on her left hand. Reggie tried not to look at them, or Bergan's, or Mackenzie's. During the past eighteen months, all three of her closest friends had found their true loves and were now happily married. She had tried not to let it bother her, had tried to remain as happy and as optimistic as she'd always been, but deep down inside, late at night when she was all alone in her apartment, she had curled into a tight little ball and cried, feeling incredibly lonely.
And now, to top everything off, Flynn Jamieson was back in her life. He was the only man she had ever truly given her heart to, the only man she had ever truly loved, and yet he was the only man who had ever truly crushed her beyond despair.
'What are you going to do?' Bergan asked.
'What do you mean, what am I going to do? I'm going to yell and scream and bellyache and do my best not to fall apart in front of him. I mean..' She spread her arms wide as she slumped back in her chair. 'It's Flynn' Reggie closed her eyes. 'My Flynn,' she whispered, as Mackenzie put her arms around Reggie and hugged her close.
'How did he look?' Bergan asked.
Reggie sighed and shook her head as though she were a completely lost cause. 'Good. Really good.'
'But he is not married anymore, is that correct?' Sunainah asked.
Reggie sighed and looked at her friends. 'Not as far as I know, but then, I stopped reading the latest society gossip of the rich and famous after I saw the picture of him and his blonde, buxom bride splashed across the front pages. A man does not break off an engagement with one woman and then marry another in under a fortnight.' She glared at her untouched coffee, her voice as dark as the beverage.
Less than twenty-four hours after Flynn had taken her out to a romantic restaurant, given her red roses, plied her with the finest champagne and then strolled with her along the beach at sunset, stopping momentarily to go down on bended knee to not only confess his love for her but profess that it was she he wanted to spend the rest of his life withhe'd come round to her apartment and called the whole thing off, telling her it had been a mistake.
'Stupid romance. Stupid rich people. Stupid Flynn,' she grumbled, her frown deepening. 'And I thought I was going to have a good Christmas this year. Fat chance of that happening now.' She sighed, trying to figure out how she was supposed to deal with working alongside him every day until Geetha returned from maternity leave, which could be anywhere from six to twelve months from now.
Lifting her gaze from scowling at her coffee, it was then Reggie noticed that her three friends were giving each other very worried looks. They'd all known each other so well, for so many years, having been through so much together, that sometimes there was no need for words to communicate exactly what they were thinking.
They'd met at medical school, all of them having come from very different backgrounds, but their past adversities had been the one thing that had ended up binding them together. None of them had had an easy ride throughout their life but in looking out for each other and offering constant support, they'd formed their own family unit. So Reggie could easily read their expressions and she shook her head.
'I'm not going to fall for him again. I can tell that's what you're all thinking, aren't you,' she stated rhetorically.
'Well ' Sunainah shrugged.
'You've always said he was your one true love,' Mackenzie added.
'I'm more worried about you turning into a crazy nutter again,' Bergan added, her words matter-of-fact but filled with love. 'I mean, after you broke up you not only removed every single trace of Flynn from your life, destroying and disposing of all the very expensive gifts he'd given you, but you cut your hair super-short, coloured it purple and threw yourself into matchmaking your friends.'
'Well, I can't do the last bit anymore,' Reggie pointed out, indicating the wedding rings her friends were wearing, then added thoughtfully, 'I could possibly colour my hair again. I've always wanted to go green. What do you think? Green streaks?'
Before her friends could answer, Bergan's and Mackenzie's phones rang. They quickly answered them and while they spoke, Sunainah reached across the table and took Reggie's hand in hers.
'Just pause, Reggie. Stop and take a breath.' Sunainah's phone started buzzing with a reminder and she shook her head. 'I am sorry, Reggie. My clinic will be starting in five minutes. I need to'
'Go.' Reggie waved her hands towards her friends, shooing them away. 'Thanks for giving me probably the only fifteen minutes you had spare. I do appreciate it.'
'Sorry,' Mackenzie said, as she and Bergan stood.
'Emergency,' Bergan added.
'My afternoon theatre list will be starting late so call me if I'm needed to help out,' Reggie told Bergan.
'Will do,' her friend replied.
Reggie picked up her coffee, sipping it as she watched her friends finish their drinks quickly and head back to the hospital. She prided herself on always being happy, always having a bright smile on her face, a genuine smile, one that would bring happiness to others. Forever optimisticthat's what her friends had called her, yet now she wanted to wallow in her despondency, blaming Flynn Jamieson for making her feel this way.
'Definitely green hair,' she mumbled to herself a few minutes later, unable to lift herself out of her grumpy mood.
'I think it would look great,' a deep male voice said from behind her, a voice she instantly recognised and one that set her entire body alight with sparks of joy and excitement. Reggie turned round to look over her shoulder but didn't see him. Had she imagined it? Was she going insane, thinking every deep male voice belonged to Flynn?
She turned her attention back to her drink and almost jumped with fright when she saw Flynn lowering his six-foot-four-inch frame into the chair opposite her. She quickly put her coffee back onto the table before she spilled it. 'Don't do that, Flynn. You know I don't like being scared.'
He nodded. 'I do. Sorry. Couldn't resist.'
'Try.' She glared at him suspiciously. 'How long have you been lurking around here?' She indicated the immediate vicinity around her table. Had he overheard them all talking?
'I came in as your friends were leaving. I received a very cool look from Bergan, is it?' 'Yes.' She frowned. 'How did you know that?'
'You showed me quite a few pictures of all your friends during our time together in the Caribbean. Don't you remember?'
Reggie sat up straighter in her chair, squaring her shoulders. 'I can't remember a lot of things about the Caribbean. It was so long ago.' She tried to inflect a touch of nonchalance into her tone but could tell from the disbelieving look on his face that he wasn't really buying it.
Flynn nodded slowly then just sat there, staring at her as though he was drinking in the sight of her. 'How have you been, Reg?'
She gritted her teeth at his familiarity, not wanting to give him the satisfaction again of seeing how the intimate name flustered her. Tm fme.'
'Freaked out? Insecure? Neurotic and emotional?' he checked, and she shook her head in annoyance.
'Don't be cute, Flynn.'
He spread his arms wide and leaned back in his chair. 'I don't know how to be any other way.' His smile was big, his eyebrows were raised and his twinkling eyes were clearly teasing her.
'I see your arrogance is still in check.'
He surprised her by chuckling and she instantly wished he hadn't, the warm, inviting sound washing over her like a comfortable blanket. She'd always loved his laugh, always loved making him laugh, but not like this, not through silly barbs and jibes.
Reggie bit her tongue, needing to get her ridiculous hormones under control, to remain cool, calm and collected. 'What are you doing here?
'In the coffee shop?'
She levelled him with a glare. 'Flynn.' There was warning in her tone.