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"MOZART would be good for all the babies in the NICU,"
Marty protested. "I've picked out melodies everyone knows so the parents would enjoy it too. Besides, Emmaline is used to it. it's what I've played for her all along."
Sophie Gibson touched her friend lightly on the shoulder. "She's not your baby," she gently reminded Marty. "In fact, she's not even called Emmaline."
"But you've got to admit she looks like an Emmaline, doesn't she?"
Marty put her hand through the port of the humidi-crib and touched the wild black hair poking up from beneath the stockingette cap on the head of the tiny baby. Emmaline's cherub face was screwed up as if sleeping required the utmost concentration, her little fists tucked up against her chin, ready to take on anyone who bothered her.
Or who messed with her Mozart! "She looks like a baby," Sophie said, then turned, smiling, as she heard her husband's voice.
"Glad you're both here," Alexander Gibson said quietly. "Sophie, Marty, I'd like you both to meet Dr Carlos Quintero. He's the baby's father." despair that squeezed her stomach wasn't written on her face.
Stupid to have grown attached to Emmalinestupid, stupid, stupid!
"Carlos, this is Sophie Gibson, second in charge of the neonatal intensive care unit, and Marty Cox, the obstetrician who took care of Natalie during the time she was in on life support in the intensive care unit."
The dark-haired, deeply tanned stranger bowed his head towards the two women, but Marty sensed his eyes, hidden beneath hooded, jet-fringed lids, were on Emmthe baby.
then he lifted his head and eyes as dark as his lashes obsidian stones in his harsh-planed facemet Marty's.
"I will wish to speak further to you," he said, his deep, accented voice, though quiet, carrying easily around the room.
Presence, that's what he has, Marty thought, although she doubted presence was the reason for a sudden fluttery feeling in her chest.
"Of course," she agreed, as easily as possible given the fluttery stuff going on. "Any time. Well, not quite any time, but we can make a time."
She was chattering, something she only did when she was nervous, and of course Emmaline's father suddenly turning up would make her nervous.
Wouldn't it? "Why not now?" Sophie suggested. "You've just come off duty."
Marty fired a "some friend you are" glance towards the neonatologist, and wondered just how bad she, herself, looked. towards the crib then turned back to Marty.
"Not at all. Now would suit me if it is convenient for you." Marty looked helplessly towards Sophie, who had to hide the smile, while Gib made matters worse by suggesting they use his office, which had a super coffee-maker and comfortable armchairs in which they could sit.
"You know how to work the coffee-machine," he reminded Marty as she dragged her reluctant body out of the NICU, far too aware of the tall dark stranger following behind her.
"Talk about a cliché!" she muttered to herself as this description of Carlos whoever flashed through her mind.
"I am sorry?"
She turned and shrugged. "No, I'm sorry. Talking to myself. Bad habit." "And one I also have," the polite doctor informed her. "Though, in my case, I am often the only person who understands me."
"You can say that again!" Marty told him, turning to smile as she added, "Though there are times when even I don't understand me."
"Ah!" He returned her smile, brilliant white teeth flashing in his dark face, deep lines creasing the tanned cheeks and crinkling the skin at the corner of his eyes. "But that is more than a language problem, is it not?"
Still getting over the effect of the smilewhich had stuck her feet to the floor and made her stomach swoop in a wild roller-coaster simulationshe had no idea what to say to this fairly acute observation.
She settled on a lame "Gib's office is through here" and led the way along the corridor and into the comfortable room. At least, while she busied herself at the coffee-machine she wouldn't have to look at this Carlos wouldn't have to see the silver strands in his night-dark hair, or the smooth tanned skin stretched over hard muscle in his arms, or the way his fine-boned nose seemed to direct the eye towards sinfully shapely lips.
And how come she'd noticed that much? She who looked on men as necessary adjuncts to the continuation of the species and, at best, useful friends who could reach the highest shelves in the supermarket or lift things down from on top of cupboards?
She shook her head as the espresso machine delivered its final drops into the two small cups, took a deep breath and turned back to find the man studying the photos of some of Gib's patients that adorned the walls of his office.
"You call these before and after photos?"he said, turning as she put the coffee cups on the low table. "I have never done much neonatology. it is amazing to think these small babies can grow into such sturdy children and healthy-looking teenagers."
"they get the best possible start in this NICU," Marty told him. "With EmmalineI'm sorry, with your baby we weren't sure how premature she was, but her birth weight was 1500 grams, which put her into low birth weight category. So she'd have gone there rather than the other nursery anyway. In the NICU she can be watched every minute of the day in case any of the things that beset premmie babies crops up."
Had he noticed her slip?
He didn't mention it, settling himself in a chair near the table and spooning sugar into his coffee.
"Emmaline?" Dark eyebrows rose as he said the word and Marty squirmed with embarrassment.
"I know it's silly, but I've kind of known her, you see, right from when Natalie was admitted. I was called to consult in A and E when she was brought in after the accident, and then when the decision was made to keep her on life support for the baby's sake, I was the obstetrician in chargebut Gib's already told you that part. the hospital couldn't track down any relatives, which meant Natalie had no visitors so there was no one to talk to the baby. I used to visit, and talk to it, and play music"
So he had heard her conversation. She really should learn to argue more quietly. But playing Mozart had been little enough to do for the baby and the brain-dead woman who had been carrying her, so she tilted her chin and defended her actions.
"Did you know a researcher once had a group of adolescents take a test, then played some Mozart for them, then had them take a parallel test and every one of them did better? I don't know if it made any difference to the baby, or to Natalie, but it's beautiful music. I love Bachprobably more than Mozartbut I thought he might be too complex for the baby, so stuck with a lot of the piano concertos"
She stopped abruptly as embarrassment coiled and writhed like something alive inside her.
"Of course, my musical tastes are nothing to do with what you want to know, which was"
Marty had no idea where the conversation had begun, so she picked up her coffee and took a gulp. Quite dreadfulshe'd forgotten to put sugar in, or was too muddled to have given it a thought.
"Emmaline," he repeated, and she felt embarrassment heat her body as she remembered.
"I didn't name her right away. I called her "the baby" or just "baby" when I visited for the four weeks Natalie was in the ICU, but then, when I delivered her, she was a tiny scrap of humanity with this wealth of black hair." She smiled. "I'd had a doll with hair like that when I was young and she was Emmaline, so the name just sort of stuck."
"Emmaline Quintero!" He spoke as if tasting the name on his tongue, and Marty, wondering if there was a word that would convey the ultimate in mortificationmortifiedest?rushed into speech again.
"You don't have to call her Emmaline, of course you don't. you'll have your own name for her, a family name maybeyour mother's namea favourite, or you could call her after Natalie."
Big mistake! the man's face became a mask of nothingness, all expression wiped awayblack eyes boring into Marty's, lips thinned and tight as he said coldly, "I think not."
Do not apologise, Marty's inner voice ordered, but she was beyond help from within and had already rushed into a confused bout of "sorrys".
"the decision to keep Natalie on life support? That was yours?"
Thankfully, Carlos's question cut across her stumbling apologies and Marty was able to grasp the lifeline of a purely medical question.
Although why was he questioning the decision? Refusing to think about the implications of that one, Marty explained. "Actually, in the absence of any relative that we could contact, the hospital ethics committee made the decision. they went on the advice of the neonatologistSophie was the one consulted at the timeand my judgement of the stage of the pregnancy. it was deemed advisable, for the baby's sake"
"What was that judgement?"
Marty was prepared to accept his interruptionafter all, the man had stuff he wanted to knowbut the cold, hard voice in which he interruptedshe didn't like that one little bit.
"My judgement of the stage of pregnancy?" she queried, her voice as cold and hard as hisall compassion gone. Two could play this game. "I measured fundal height, and used ultrasound to estimate the length of the baby and head circumference. But although these measurements are fairly close in the first and second trimester, by the third, beginning at twenty-eight weeks"
Too much information nowhe'd know all this medical detailbut he didn't interrupt so she kept going.
"they can be out by as much as three weeks, and that's plus or minus. the man who was in the car gave no help apart to say she was pregnant when she moved in with him so the closest we could get was twenty-eight to thirty-one weeks. Natalie was tall and slim so it was also possible the pregnancy could have been further along than thata possibility that became a probability when Emthe baby was delivered."
"Dios! Call the baby Emmaline if you wish. Anything is better than this stumbling every time she's mentioned." He glared at Marty, as if defying her to disobey his order, then demanded, "So, if anything, Natalie was further into her pregnancy than your initial assessmentthat is what you're saying?"
Marty nodded, feeling sorry now for Emmaline who had this disagreeable man for a father.
"And the man said she was pregnant when she returned to him?"
"I don't know about "returned". He said she was already pregnant when she came and that's all he'd say."
"Oh, she returned, for sure," Carlos told her, enough ice in his voice to make Marty shiver.
there was a long silence, then he added, "So this Emmaline, she is mine!"
He ground out the words with such evident regret distaste almostMarty let fly.
"You make it sound as if she's an albatross hung around your neck by some malign fate. She's a babyshe's not to blame for being born. you're a doctoryou of all people know how conception happens. Actually, ten-year-old kids know how it happens these days. But it was up to you. If you didn't want a child, you should have done something to prevent it."
She was glaring directly at him so caught the flash of something that might be humour in his eyes, then he smiled as he said, "And do you always think of the possibility of conception when you make love with your partner? Or is the easing of the urgent need the priority of both mind and body?"
The smile, though as coolly cynical as the words, confused her to the extent she forgot to breathe, then, angry at her reaction, she snapped at him.
"I don't have a partner!"