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Annie looked up at Kate, registered the slack jaw and widening eyes, and started to turn her head.
'Don't look!' Kate hissed, dragging her eyes back to the notes.
'Don't look at what?'
'Total hottie heading this way. Absolute classic TDH. He can't possibly be our new SpR, we don't get that lucky.' Her eyes flicked up again briefly. 'OMG, he is gorgeous! I think I'm in love.'
She fanned herself theatrically with the notes, and Annie chuckled. TDH? OMG? 'You can't possibly be in love-'
'You wanna bet?' Kate sneaked another peek and her voice shifted up an octave. 'He's coming in! And he's got a stethoscope round his neck !'
Annie rolled her eyes and snatched the notes from her, just as the door behind her swung open.
'Hi. I heard the paeds trauma call. Want any help?'
Well, she had to look now. Apart from the fact that he was talking to them, that voice was-well, compelling went a short way towards describing it. Dark, molten chocolate, with a tiny kick of chilli that left a lingering warmth in its wake.
There was no way his body could match that voice. She turned her head, smile at the ready, and her breath hitched.
The voice didn't do him justice.
Neither had Kate, but then she'd been virtually incoherent. She'd been right to a point, though. Tall, dark and handsome for sure- and, yes, completely and utterly gorgeous, if you were into that type, but she wasn't. Not that she had a type any more, but if she did, it wouldn't be a man like this.
Broad, lean, toned, reeking of testosterone overlaid with fresh air and sunshine, everything about him screamed trouble! His slate-blue bedroom eyes were fringed with black lashes a mile long, and that lazy stride ate up the floor as he advanced towards them.
Her first instinct was to run, but then common sense intervened. He was a doctor, apparently, possibly their new registrar, and he was offering to help, and that made him definitely her type. The mind-numbingly gorgeous packaging didn't matter. What mattered was that he was here, on a day when their staffing levels were stretched to the limit, and frankly if he'd had two heads she'd welcome him with open arms. But-sheesh. Did he have to be quite so luscious?
She resisted the urge to fan herself with the notes a la Kate and found her voice from somewhere.
'Maybe. Don't know much about it yet. Child versus car, possible head injury, but that's all we have as yet. ETA any second.'
She stuck out her hand to him, determined to behave like a grown-up and not a hormonal teenager, and tilted her head way back to meet his eyes. 'I'm Annie Brooks, by the way,' she said, proud of her voice for not coming out like a demented squeak. 'I'm job-sharing with Andy Gallagher. And you are.?'
'Ah. Sorry. Ed Shackleton, James Slater's new specialist registrar,' he confirmed, those heavily lashed eyes the colour of storm clouds meeting hers and holding them. A warm, strong hand engulfed her own as that firm, chiselled mouth tilted into a smile, and everything inside her lurched.
Her pulse spiked, and she could feel heat spreading out from her hand, all the way up her arm, settling in the region of her locked-down diaphragm like a fireball.
And she was blushing.
No. Not a blush. A flush.
Worse, the heat from the fireball was spreading upwards now, creeping up her body towards her face.
Could he see it? Please, God, no-
The sound of the siren penetrated the swirling fog that was her brain, and she sucked in a breath and snatched her hand back, resisting the urge to wipe it on her scrubs, as if she could wipe away her reaction to his touch.
'Sounds like we might be in business. Are we ready?'
One look at Kate and it was clear that she was. Ready for anything their new SpR cared to throw at them-unlike her. She was blushing and flushing and generally getting in a dither. Oh, this was ridiculous
But Kate's sensible self was back in charge, thank goodness, and she nodded briskly. 'We're good to go.' 'Right.'
The sirens screamed to a halt, leaving a shocking silence, and her brain finally snapped back to life.
'OK, we're on. Let's go and find out what we've got.'
'Mind if I tag along?' he asked quietly. 'I'm Paeds trained.'
'Sure. Feel free. We can always use another pair of hands.'
She pushed the door out of the way, oddly desperate to escape the confines of Resus. She didn't do this-didn't get hot and flustered and all quivery inside.
Ever. At all. Men were firmly off her menu, now and into the hereafter. Maybe longer.
And Dr Gorgeous was definitely a man.
She took a deep breath and walked briskly out to the ambulance bay, deeply conscious of the man keeping pace by her side. The doors of the ambulance flew open, the steps flipped down and the doctor in her kicked in.
She forgot all about him, forgot everything except the sobbing child and the look of terror on the face of his mother as the paramedics who'd brought them in reeled off his stats and the treatment to date.
And as she nodded at the paramedic and smiled at the mother, she could see Ed scanning the child with his eyes, assessing him rapidly. Good. She turned her attention to the mother.
'Hi, I'm Annie, I'm a doctor, and this is Ed. We're going to be looking after your son. What's his name?'
'Cody,' his mother said unsteadily. 'Cody Phillips. Oh, please, help him.'
The calm, confident voice came from Ed, who was leaning over the trolley as they pushed it in, looking down at the boy. Cody's right eye was swollen shut, a blue stain under the skin of his temple and cheek, and he was sobbing, but Ed just smiled and held his hand as if it was all fine. 'Hi, Cody, I'm Ed. It's all right, you're in good hands. We've got you, mate. We'll soon make you feel better.'
The low, quiet voice was reassuring, and Annie felt the tension drain out of her. Kind as well as gorgeous. Now to check out his clinical skills to see if they matched up. He was certainly doing all right so far.
'You can lead if you like,' she said, and he nodded.
'Will you do the FAST scan, please?' 'Sure.'
Like a well-oiled machine, the team went into action, and gradually Annie felt herself relax.
He was good, she realised. More than that, he was very good. She stopped watching his every move, and concentrated on what she was doing.
'Results are through.'
He moved up behind her, so close she could feel the warmth coming off him. She forced herself to focus on the screen.
'Well, according to the report he's got no obvious brain injury and there certainly doesn't seem to be any sign of it, but he's got a fracture of the right orbit.'
Ed was looking over her shoulder at the MRI scan images, his head just in her line of sight, and he winced. 'Must have been quite a whack. I wonder if he'll end up with any loss of vision. The swelling could put a lot of pressure on that eye.' He leaned in closer, bringing him right up against her. 'Am I imagining it, or is the orbit slightly compressed?'
She shifted sideways a fraction. 'Possibly. What a shame. Poor little Cody.'
She turned but Ed was still right there, studying the images on the screen, his chest just inches from her nose. She sucked in a breath, but that was a mistake, because with the air came a faint trace of soap and red-blooded man.
'Want me to talk to the parents?' he asked, the tingle of chilli in that low, melting-chocolate voice setting fire to her nerve endings again.
'No, I'll do it,' she said briskly.
She ducked past him, and he followed her back to the child's side where Cody's parents were waiting anxiously for the verdict, his mother's eyes brimming with fear as she watched them approach.
It wasn't surprising. Cody's father had arrived shortly after the ambulance, and although they'd eliminated any other injuries in the last hour, this was the thing that was worrying them all the most and frankly this family needed some good news. Annie smiled at them reassuringly.
'OK, we've had a look at the report now and although he's got a facial fracture Cody doesn't have an obvious brain injury, which is great news-'
'So-he's all right?' his mother asked, hope replacing the fear.
'Well, nothing obvious has been detected in his brain,' she cautioned, 'but that doesn't mean he's out of the woods yet. He'll be a bit concussed and have a horrible headache anyway, but sometimes the brain swells after a bump like this so he'll need constant monitoring for the next few hours just in case, but they should be able to manage it if it happens. However, the fracture extends to his eye socket where his cheekbone's taken the impact, so he's certainly not unscathed. It's going to be sore and because of where it is, it might have implications for his sight.'
Her eyes widened, the fear back. A new fear this time, and she pressed her fingers to her mouth.
'He could go blind?' the father asked, his voice rough with emotion.
'I think that's unlikely, but it might alter his vision in that eye. They'll get the ophthalmic and maxillo-facial teams to have a really good look at it while he's in here, but it might take time for the swelling to go down before they can assess it fully. As soon as they have a bed he'll be transferred up to the paediatric intensive care unit, PICU, for monitoring and pain relief until they're happy with him, and then he'll be moved to a ward. They'll talk to you up there about his progress and what they're going to do, if anything. He'll probably be in here a couple of days, all being well, but so far we're cautiously optimistic that he'll make a full recovery. Children are very resilient.'
His mother's shoulders slumped-with relief? Worry? Guilt?
All of it. She knew all about a mother's guilt. She lived with it every working day, but needs must and so far the girls seemed well adjusted.
Which was more than she could say for herself at the moment. She'd just caught another whiff of Ed Shackleton's special blend of soap and pheromones, and she had to force herself to concentrate on talking to Cody's parents.
'I'll chase up PICU,' Kate was saying, and she nodded.
'Thanks. Right, I'm just going to update the notes, and as soon as they've got a bed free, we'll be moving him. You'll be able to stay with him overnight.'
His mother nodded, and Annie stepped away from them, grabbed the notes and moved to the side to write them up.
Behind her she could hear Ed's voice murmuring to the parents, answering their endless questions with sensibly noncommittal answers.
He'd been amazing. Calm, steady, gentle, soothing the distressed child with a competence that usually came with years of practice.
He was probably a father. Almost inevitably. Someone was bound to have snapped him up, he was far too good to be on the shelf.
Unless he was a player, but he didn't seem the type. Far too wholesome and straightforward. Until the lights went out?
It was none of her business, she reminded herself crossly. And in any case she wasn't interested.
So this was Annie Brooks.
He glanced across at her, writing up the notes while Kate kept an eye on Cody's monitor and pottered quietly in the background.
Her back was to him, which meant he could study her without detection. She wasn't short, but she certainly wasn't tall. Her head would tuck easily under his chin. And her body was-well, just a body. Nothing out of the ordinary. She wasn't fat, she wasn't thin, she was just. womanly, he thought with interest. Feminine. Her curves were in all the right places, and she moved with grace.
Except when she was rattled. Then she moved awkwardly, self-consciously. He found that interesting, too.
Her mid-brown hair was twisted up in a clip at the back, out of the way. A strand had escaped, and she was fiddling with it, one finger twirling the little curl round and round.
It was a curiously innocent gesture, utterly unconscious, the sort of thing people did when they were concentrating hard, and he found it strangely touching.
James had told him about her. He'd said she was competent, kind and easy to work with, but he was sure that underneath the surface there was much, much more to her than that.
There were hundreds of girls like Kate, nice girls, pretty girls, girls who made it clear with every glance that they were available, but Annie
Annie intrigued him. For a moment there, right at the beginning, he'd had his doubts about her. She'd seemed ruffled by his arrival, somehow, distracted and unfocused, but then the ambulance had arrived and she'd changed.
It was as if she'd engaged a different gear, and it had all settled down. She'd become everything that James had told him she was, and he began to think he'd imagined that sizzle of awareness.
Until their glances had met again. For a fleeting moment the forget-me-not blue of her eyes had locked with his, and then it had been back, whatever 'it' was. Some crazy pull between them, like kissing dolls, the magnetic attraction drawing them inexorably together.
And she seemed to resent it, to pull back from it as if it was unwelcome, turning her head and carrying on as if nothing had happened, but it had, and she'd dismissed it.
He felt a twinge of regret. A little light relief to take his mind off the coming months of family trauma and upheaval might have been welcome, but it probably wasn't sensible. He had nothing to offer, he wasn't here for long and anyway it was never a good idea to muddy the waters with someone you worked with.
Kate, for instance. She'd made it blindingly obvious she was up for anything he might suggest, but anyway, even if he found her attractive, which he didn't except in the most superficial and basic way, the same principle applied-
'PICU are ready for him.'
He nodded at Kate and switched his eyes to Annie.
'All done. Kate, will you go with him, please?'
She slapped the notes shut, put them on the trolley, shook hands with the parents and the two of them watched as Cody was whisked away.
'Poor little boy. He's going to have a cracking headache for a few days,' he said softly.
Annie nodded. 'Let's hope that's all. Good teamwork, by the way. Thank you.'
'My pleasure. Thank you for letting me join you.'
Annie flashed him a quick acknowledging glance, the first time she'd met his eyes for a while now. Well, since that time, when he'd felt that sizzle of awareness again.
But there was no awareness now that he could see, and her voice was brisk and businesslike.
'You're welcome. It's nice to know we've got someone on the team with Paeds training. You can never have too many. Right, I need to go and chase up some tests,' she said, and he could have sworn she was running away.
From him? Surely not. He hadn't given her any reason to feel threatened or harassed in any way.
So why was he so much of a threat to her?