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Damn. What've I done?
Dr. Charlotte James had been watching the arrivals board in the Iqaluit airport for some time. She was so focused on arrivals she didn't even notice the people coming and going around her. A watched pot never boiled, or so the old saying went, but she couldn't help it. This was probably the longest she'd ever stood still. In her job there was no time to stand still. In fact, she hated it. She could be doing so many other things. Filing, for instance.
Not that she particularly liked filing. She preferred her organized chaos. However, there were a ton of files on her desk, and Rosie had been pestering her for a week to put them away. Instead, she was waiting here for his flight to arrive.
"Flight 207 from Ottawa now arriving at gate three."
The past, when it came to Dr. Quinn Devlyn, was where it needed to be: firmly locked away. She'd moved on and she had no doubt his life had, too.
He was, after all, at the top in his chosen specialty, and she was right where she'd always wanted to be.
This time Quinn Devlyn wouldn't blindside her or suck her into some crazy off-kilter distracting, albeit passionate, love affair.
Her life was good. Not perfect but, then, whose was? Charlotte was happy. Courage.
She spun around and saw the plane taxi in on the small airstrip, blending in with the stark, white landscape of Canada's High Arctic. The only color out there was the brightly painted houses that dotted the landscape. Her pulse thundered between her ears.
The pit of Charlotte's stomach dropped to her knees. No. Scratch that. Make it the soles of her feet. Not since her MCATs had she felt this way, as though she was perpetually on the verge of hurling.
She was seriously beginning to doubt her sanity in bringing her ex-fiance up to Cape Recluse. It wasn't a place where she could avoid him easily. He'd be constantly underfoot and she was dreading every moment of it. Would she be able to resist him? The only time she had resisted him had been when he'd left. When their relationship had ended, she'd never wanted to see him again, but his presence here now was a price she was willing to pay to help out her friend. Get a grip on yourself.
A blast of cold air shook her from her reverie. Her gaze focused on the tinted windows, watching the passengers head across the tarmac to the warmth of the bright yellow airport building. Immediately she picked Quinn's form out of the group of passengers.
Tall and broad, even though he was huddled down under his collar against the cold. Just the sight of him made her heart beat a little bit faster, her cheeks heat and the butterflies in her stomach go crazy. Her pulse thundered between her ears like a marching band. She hadn't seen him in five yearsnot since he'd walked out on herbut he was making her feel like a giddy teenager again.
Don't let him affect you like this, Charlotte chastised herself. She'd moved on with her life. The wound he'd left in her heart had finally healed.
The double doors opened and he stepped into the airport, moving to the side to let more people in from the frigid cold. He set down his luggage and unwound his scarf.
Damn, he still looks as good as ever. Charlotte had been kind of hoping Quinn's fast, career-driven lifestyle would've caught up with and aged him, but he looked as sexy and charming as ever.
Even from a few feet away she could see there was a bit of gray around his sandy-brown temples, but it suited him. Made him look more dashing and debonair. Some stubble shadowed his chin, but it didn't hide the faint line of the scar that crossed his lips. A tingle of heat shot through her body as she suddenly recalled the way his lips had brushed across hers. A flush of goose bumps spread across her skin just at the thought of the way he would kiss a path down her body, his strong hands caressing her, holding her.
What're you doing? She was not some lovestruck goofy med student anymore. She was a physician with a thriving practice. There was no way she was going to let him in again.
Hell would have to freeze over, not that it would take much, given the current temperature outside was minus thirty.
Charlotte shut those memories away firmly, refusing to think about them any further.
Instead, she remembered how he'd brushed off the miscarriage of their child as being for the best.
As a chance to move to New York and pursue their careers.
Only New York had not been what she'd wanted. She was where she wanted to be. Not to follow him had been her decision, her right to go after her dreams.
I can do this for Mentlana.
This was all for her best friend. The only thing close to a family she'd had since her father had died when she was ten. Charlotte never knew her mother, who'd died when she was two. Mentlana and her family had been there with open arms when Charlotte had returned to Cape Recluse after Quinn had left and she'd lost her baby. Correction: their baby.
Now Mentlana needed help and Quinn was the best when it came to neonatal medicine. For her best friend, Charlotte would face death itself. Even though, as far as she was concerned, Dr. Quinn Devlyn was far more dangerous than the Grim Reaper. She'd take him on, anyway.
Quinn would save Mentlana's baby.
Mustering her courage and holding her head high, Charlotte strode over to him. All the while her heart was racing and her knees shook like they were about to give out on her. He looked up, his chocolate gaze reeling her in as she moved toward him. His eyes were twinkling and she suddenly remembered how easy it was to get lost in those eyes.
They were hypnotizing.
The thought frightened her and she stopped a foot away from him, frozen in fear. Distance from him would be the safest.
Remember, he left you. You can't get hurt again. You're over him.
She couldn't let her guard down when it came to Quinn Devlyn.
Not now that she was finally whole again.
"Well, well. If it isn't the great wilderness physician," he teased, as his eyes roved over her from head to toe, a haughty smile on his lips and that damn dimple in his cheek popping up.
His mocking tone made her grind her teeth just a bit. She pressed her lips together, forcing a smile. "Dr. Devlyn. I'm glad you could come."
"It's Dr. Devlyn, now? When did we become so formal? I know we didn't part on good terms, but can we drop the formalities?" The spicy scent of his colognea clean scent of masculine soap and something elseteased her senses.
"Fine, but first names are as far as we go, do you understand? You're here in a professional capacity. Nothing more."
"Agreed. I would expect nothing less, Charlotte."
It was the way he said her name that triggered the memory. The two of them together for the first time, locked in a small hotel room in Niagara Falls, and the way he'd whispered her name against her neck.
"God, Charlotte. I need you."
I need you. Never, I love you. She should've taken that as a sign when she'd said yes to his proposal in the first place, but she'd been so blinded by love.
Charlotte nodded, but blooming warmth in her stomach spread to her cheeks. "Did you have a good flight?" she asked, trying to make small talk.
"As good as can be expected. The man next to me seemed to invade my space a lot, but overall it was as enjoyable as any other flight." He pulled up the handle to his rolling suitcase with a snap. The tone was a bit arrogant and that attitude was why she'd never brought him to Cape Recluse when they had first got engaged. Quinn had champagne tastes and was a city slicker through and through. Of course, if she'd brought him home when they had first got engaged it might've saved her some heartache.
Then she wouldn't have lost the baby, except she didn't regret carrying his baby, even for such a short time. She had known from the get-go that Quinn was not a family man. In her youthful naivety she'd thought she could change him.
How wrong she'd been.
Let it go.
It was no longer her job to care what Quinn Devlyn thought. "Well, we'd better get up to Cape Recluse. It's a two-hour flight there and there's talk of a storm coming in from Labrador. Also, I'd like to get up there before it's dark."
"It's two o'clock in the afternoon," he said, puzzled.
"The sun sets early up here."
"I thought this was the land of the midnight sun?"
"In summer This is winter. We have long periods of night."
"Yikes." Quinn shook his head. "So how are we getting there?"
"I fly." Charlotte turned on her heel and strode off toward the other section of the airport where her plane was kept in a private rented hangar. Quinn kept in step beside her.
"What do you mean, you fly? As in a plane?" His tone was one of surprise and perhaps awe.
"Yes, I don't have wings." To prove her point she flapped her arms. Quinn rolled his eyes; he had never been one for foolishness in public places.
"You know what I mean. When did you learn how to fly?"
"About four years ago, after a man died in my arms from a very mild myocardial infarction. His death could've been prevented if we'd had regular flights from Iqaluit to Cape Recluse. By the time the air ambulance landed, Mr. Tikivik was dead. It was then I decided to learn how to fly, so I could fly my patients to Iqaluit if need be."
"So you're a physician and a paramedic, as well?" The tone was sarcastic, making her bristle with annoyance. His attitude on job specifications certainly hadn't changed one bit.
"What else are they supposed to do? Plan their medical emergencies to fit around a pilot's schedule?"
"I didn't mean to upset you. I think it's a lot to ask for limited pay."
Charlotte turned to face him. "Money doesn't mean that much to me. Lives mean more."
Quinn didn't respond but looked a bit taken aback. Guilt assailed her. She didn't want to pick a fight with him, not after he'd come all this way and on his own dime.
"Sorry," she apologized.
"For what?" he asked.
"If I insulted you."
"You didn't. You have nothing to be sorry about."
"Of course." Charlotte shook her head. Quinn never had hidden the fact that success and to be the best in his field drove him. In his eyes you were nothing without those attributes.
"I'm interested in meeting Mentlana Tikivik and examining her and the baby. Still, I don't quite understand why you don't just fly her down to Toronto."
"She has a pulmonary embolus."
Quinn whistled. "Does she know about the diagnosis of the fetus?"
"Yes, I told her." Charlotte sighed. "I told her I was bringing a specialist up to determine the severity of the CCAM. She's aware of what may have to happen, and she's fine with it. She wants to do whatever it takes to save her baby."
Just like I would've done to save mine.
A lump formed in her throat as her mind wandered back to that horrible day when she'd spotted the mass on the baby's lungs. She'd recognized the congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation, or CCAM, for what it was, and there had been no way she could fix it. She was only a general practitioner. She wasn't qualified.
"Of course." He nodded. "Did you explain the procedure to her?"
"Oh, yes." Charlotte couldn't help but smile as she remembered having to go through each step of the procedure, like she was talking to a first-year surgical resident.
"Did she understand?" Quinn asked, confused.
"Eventually," Charlotte replied.
Charlotte laughed. "She understands, but Mentlana is very inquisitive. I'll warn you now, she'll bombard you with questions."
"No need to warn me. I've dealt with worse, I'm sure. I've consulted on many patients before and I've a way of explaining complex medical procedures so patients understand me."
Charlotte rolled her eyes. "Your pride is healthy, I see."
Quinn smiled. "I have an excellent bedside manner."
In your dreams, perhaps.
"Right, I forgot about your charming persona with patients." She snapped her fingers. "You're something of a McSteamy."
"Never mind, it's a Grey's Anatomy joke."
"Didn't that character die?"
Charlotte smirked. "I didn't know you were a Grey's Anatomy fan."
He sighed. "What I meant was that I have a way of getting people to open up to me. I have a winning personality."
Charlotte cocked an eyebrow. "Is that so?"
Quinn chuckled. "Okay. Look, what I meant was I'll be able to explain it to her and gain her trust. I've done this surgery before."
Trust was important, especially in the Inuk culture. Trust was important to her, too. She'd trusted Quinn. She'd never forget how deeply in love with him she'd been. Quinn had claimed her heart, body and soul. He'd taken her innocence and had then crushed all her hopes and dreams when he'd walked out on her after she'd lost their baby.
"It's for the best, Charlotte. We're not ready. We have our careers ahead of us."
The day he'd walked out had been the day he'd lost her trust. She'd never let him in again.
Never is a long time.
"Hey, are you okay? You zoned out, there, for a moment," Quinn said, waving a hand in front of her face.
Charlotte shook the painful memory away. "If you're sure you can handle Mentlana, I'll leave you to it."
"Charlotte, your friend will be totally at ease and informed during the entire procedure."
"Trust is not easily given by people in a small, close-knit and isolated community."
"Trust me." He grinned, a dimple puckering.
"I did that once before," she muttered.
"What?" he asked. He hadn't heard her, but when had he ever? When they'd been together, everything had been about him and she'd been so in love she'd been content to follow.
It had taken her a long time realize she'd been so desperate to have her own family she'd been blinded to the fact she had been engaged to a man who was already marriedto his work.
"Don't worry about it." Though Charlotte wasn't entirely sure he could fit in with the residents of Cape Recluse. A man like Quinn would stick out like a sore thumb.
"Should I worry?" he asked.
"So, I was surprised to learn you're in Toronto," Charlotte said, changing the subject but also feeding her nosy side. New York had been Quinn's dream destination, his Mecca, his reason for leaving her, but when she'd called he'd been in Toronto.
"My father's health deteriorated two years ago. He offered me a position at the hospital. He wanted to groom me to become Chief of Surgery." Quinn frowned and quickened his pace. Charlotte had an inkling it was a touchy subject. At least that explained why he'd given up his practice in Manhattan and moved to Toronto. It impressed her that he'd returned home to help his father, despite his history with his parents.
"Did he retire?"
"No." His voice was stiff. "No, he died."
Good going, dingbat.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't know."
Quinn shrugged. "It was his fault. He didn't practice what he preached. Excessive smoker and drinker. Cancer caught up with him."
"Still. I'm sorry." Charlotte didn't know what else to say. She knew Quinn hadn't had the best relationship with his parents, but it was still hard to lose one. She was practically a pro in that department.
She led him into a warm hangar where her little Citation jet was waiting. Quinn whistled in appreciation.
"Where did you get this?" he asked.
"I bought it at an auction. It's a '93 and was in bad shape interior-wise, but I didn't care about that. I kitted it out to transport patients."
"It's a beaut."
Charlotte grinned. She was proud of her jet and it made her preen that Quinn looked up at it in admiration. When they had been choosing their specialties, he hadn't been overly impressed with her choice of general practitioner.
You don't need his approval.
"Well, then, we'd better get going. I'll be back in a moment. I just have to clear something with the hangar's manager."
Charlotte jogged away. Quinn's personality was the same: overconfident, arrogant and cocky. But none of that mattered right now. His self-assuredness would probably be just the thing needed to save Mentlana and her baby.
And that was all that mattered.