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Emily paused silently in the shadows outside the recently expanded specialist paediatric surgical unit and fell in love.
Well, she'd needed something good to happen after the shock she'd received down in her own department.
She'd barely stuck her head inside the door when Mr Breyley's secretary had beckoned her into the office.
'I'm sorry he's not here to tell you about it himself, Dr Livingston,' the rather austere-looking woman had said with a slightly frazzled glance around at the haphazard piles of paper littering her normally pristine desk. Then she had unbent enough to murmur, confidentially, 'He and his wife flew out to New Zealand this morning. Their first grandchild is on the way. He was diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries in utero and is arriving prematurely, so they wanted to be there for their daughter . at least, until the corrective surgery's over and done with.'
'Completely understandable,' Emily had agreed, even as panic had started to set in. Was she about to lose her job? With Mr Breyley on the other side of the world, she had lost her mentor and tutor. The hospital would be unlikely to be able to find someone of his calibre available at short notice.
Then there was the fact that it hadn't only been the job that had brought her back to Penhally. Of course, it had been a terrific step up on her career path, and the fact that it had been within easy travelling distance of Beabea had been a bonus. But now that her grandmother's condition was rapidly worsening and now she'd transferred to the hospice, the last thing Emily wanted was to have to move away, perhaps to the other end of the country for a comparable post.
She just couldn't do that. She needed to be here, in the hospital closest to Penhally, so that she could spend as much of these last precious days with her grandmother as she could. Also, there was the fact that transferring to another hospital at short notice, and so soon after starting a placement, could look bad on her CV. Anyway, there was no guarantee that she would find a comparable post either.
With the likelihood that her perfect job was going to vanish into thin air, there were other worries to be considered, too.
It was highly unlikely that the hospital would be willing to keep paying her salary until they appointed a new surgical consultant to take her on and, no matter how much she wanted to spend time with Beabea, she couldn't afford to take an expensive break, either financially or professionally.
But she had so little time left to be with her grandmother and didn't want to waste any of it travelling endless hours to and fro.
'However,' the senior consultant's secretary continued, breaking into her endlessly circling thoughts, suddenly all efficiency, 'before he left, Mr Breyley had another look at the application forms you sent in when you applied for the post on his firm. He'd remembered that you'd noted an interest in the field of paediatric orthopaedics as well, so he took your references to have a word with Mr Khalil about the situation. Anyway, he has persuaded Mr Khalil to let you join his team pro tem, to see whether you fit in.'
Emily blinked a bit at that. It was amazing that Mr Breyley had found time to consider her situation when he must have been desperate to start his journey to New Zealand, but she really wasn't certain that she liked the sound of his arrangements for her. It almost made her sound like some substandard piece of equipment being dumped on an unwilling recipient.
Mr Breyley was an acknowledged expert in his field and had thought her good enough to join his team. And considering the fact that her record throughout her training had been second to none, it was almost an insult that this Mr Khalil had needed to be persuaded to take her on, even temporarily.
'I'm sorry I can't be more specific,' the harried secretary continued, apparently oblivious to Emily's chagrin at being treated as an unwanted parcel, 'but Mr Khalil said to tell you that he'd either be in his office or in Paediatric Intensive Care.'
So here she was, on a mission to find Mr Khalil and see if she could discover why he thought his requirements so much higher than Mr Breyley's when he was choosing new team members.
She'd started off her search at his office and found a stunningly beautiful woman with an intriguing accent manning the desk.
'He is not available at the moment, and he will be starting his surgical list at ten this morning,' she informed Emily coolly, as kohl-lined dark eyes flicked dismissively over her from head to toe.
Emily stifled a wry grin. It was obvious that her simple summer cotton clothes had been found seriously wanting in the elegance stakes.
Well, that was just too bad. She'd long ago decided that spending half of her time in baggy surgical scrubs, with something that looked like a pair of paper knickers on her head, meant that there wasn't a lot of point in trying to impress her colleagues with anything other than her medical capabilities.
'My name is Dr Livingston,' she informed her quietly. 'I'm the new member of Mr Khalil's team and need to know where to find him as soon as possible.'
'But .you're a woman!' she exclaimed, and grabbed for some paperwork on the top of her immaculately tidy desk. 'We are expecting a Dr Emil Livingston, and Emil is a man's name, no?'
'Emil is a man's name, yes,' Emily agreed, almost giggling when she found herself mimicking the woman's speech patterns. There was just something about these effortlessly flawless women that rubbed her up the wrong way, probably the fact that she would have to starve herself for weeks . months to wear anything like the size zero designer clothes this secretary was wearing, in spite of the fact that she tried to force herself to go for a run each day. 'But my name is Emily, with a "y", but without the corresponding chromosome.'
Emily stifled a sigh as she glanced at her watch, forgoing any effort at an explanation of her attempt at humour.
'If you could just tell me where I can find Mr Khalil, I would be very grateful.' It wouldn't do anything to impress her new boss if she was any later reporting for work, and she really needed to impress him if he was going to allow her to join his team properly until Mr Breyley returned from New Zealand. For Beabea's sake, she really needed this job.
'He will be up in PICU with the Hananis the parents of a child who will have surgery this morning. I will ring him to tell him you are coming.'
'Don't bother interrupting him while he's talking,' Emily said quickly, loath to draw any extra attention to her tardiness. 'I'll find him easily enough when I get there.'
Except she hadn't found him yet.
She'd run up several flights of steps, right to the top of the hospital where the recently expanded and refurbished PICU was situated just round the corner from the brand-new surgery suite she'd caught a glimpse of when she'd come for her interview.
She'd had to knock for admittance to the ward, not privy to the code to unlock the door yet.
'I'm Dr Livingston, the new member of Mr Khalil's team,' she announced, hoping she didn't sound too winded, but taking the stairs instead of the lift was one of the habits she'd had to adopt if she was to stand a hope of keeping her weight under control.
'Welcome!' the staff nurse said with a smile as she swung the door wide. 'We had no idea we were going to be getting a woman on one of our paediatric surgical teams. I'm Jenna Stanbury.'
She, at least, had looked pleased to see her, Emily noted as she was led into the unit. Several heads looked up from what they were doing and smiled vaguely in her direction.
'I'm afraid that Tamsin . Sister Rush has shut herself in her office with strict instructions only to be disturbed in case of fire or flood while she fights with a mountain of paperwork,' Jenna said apologetically.
'Actually, I've been trying to catch up with Mr Khalil,' she said with a grimace when she caught sight of the time on a clock shaped like a cat with a long tail swishing rhythmically to count off the seconds. At this rate she was going to be fired for poor time-keeping before she even started work.
'Don't panic,' Jenna soothed. 'The last time I saw Mr Khalil, he was going into the interview room with the Hananis to explain exactly what's going to happen during their son's operation. I sent one of the juniors in a little while ago with a tray of coffee, so you've probably got time to have a bit of a walk around while you catch your breath. Don't forget infection control procedures he's very hot on that.'
'I'm glad to hear it,' Emily said as she reached for the gel dispenser. 'It's bad enough when an adult gets a hospital-acquired infection, but when it's a sick child .' She was pleased that her new boss was as keen on good hygiene as she was. That was one thing they had in common already.
She made her way around the unit to familiarise herself with the layout, hoping that it would soon be a second home to her. It was an environment that she felt comfortable in, where post-operative patients would be continuously supervised by batteries of monitors and their needs taken care of by highly trained specialist nurses while they began their recovery after surgery.
And there he was.
Oh, she had no idea who he was, just that he was the most beautiful man she'd ever seen, with thick dark hair cut short to combat an obvious tendency to curl, dark lustrous eyes with more than a hint of the exotic about them, surrounded as they were by the thickest, longest eyelashes she'd ever seen on a man. But the most beautiful thing about him was the way he was smiling as he was leaning over the equally beautiful child in an isolette, spending precious time with him while he was awake.
She watched him as he tenderly stroked an elegant, long-fingered hand over soft dark curls, smiling again as he murmured softly.
Her heart clenched at the sight of that smile and the way it lit those beautiful dark eyes from within. This was a man who loved his child and wasn't ashamed who knew it, and something inside her ached that she'd never known such unconditional love from anyone other than her grandmother.
She didn't know whether she'd made a sound or whether her presence in the doorway had finally registered on him, but suddenly she was the focus of those dark eyes and they weren't smiling any more.
'Who are you? Do not come any closer,' he ordered in a voice soft enough not to startle the little child at his side, but with the obvious stamp of authority in every exotically accented syllable. 'What are you doing here? Do you wish to speak with me?'
'If you are Mr Khalil, yes, I do,' she said with a crushing sense of disappointment adding a crisp edge to the words. Where was the warm, caring father with his dark eyes full of love that she'd just lost her heart to? This man was something else entirely, the expression in his eyes almost cold enough to freeze her in her tracks in spite of the glorious Cornish summer day outside.
'And you are?'
He was obviously a man of few words, she thought as she took his nod as permission to approach, his commanding presence growing more overwhelming the closer she came.
For the first time since she'd embarked on her medical career she actually found herself wanting to step back from a challenge, but that wasn't her way had never been her way, from the day when a brusque social worker had dumped her unceremoniously on her grandmother when she'd been rescued from her parents' crushed car.
Deliberately, she straightened her shoulders and forced herself to meet that obsidian gaze, noticing for the first time that his face was marked with the evidence of deep-seated suffering, the eyes that had been so expressive such a short while ago now showing absolutely no emotion.
It took another second for her brain to compute all the other information it was receiving about the tall, lean man facing her from less than an arm's span awaythe arms that were bare to the elbow in compliance with the latest infection control policy, darkly tanned skin and even darker hair on well-muscled forearms, the taut skin of his freshly-shaven cheeks, the crisp freshness of his plain white shirt startling against the natural tan of his soap-scented skin.
His collar was open, in line with the hospital's no-ties policy, and she could see a dark, delicious hollow at the base of his throat and the prominent knobs of the ends of his collar-bones and, just in the deepest part of the V of his shirt opening, a dark tangle of silky-looking hair that seemed impossibly intimate, hinting at what she might reveal if she were to reach out and unfasten more of those small white buttons.
'Well?' he said shortly, and she felt the warmth surge up into her cheeks with the realisation that for the first time in her life she’ d been so busy looking at him that she’ d completely forgotten to answer his question.
'I— I understand that Mr Breyley told you about me before he left for New Zealand. I'm Emily Livingston, the new member of your team,' she said, and to prove just how scrambled her brain had become in his presence, she completely forgot about infection control and held her hand out to him.