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'Where is he, Evie?' Richard Lockheart demanded of his daughter. 'Prince Khalid bin Aziz wants Finn Kennedy and only Finn Kennedy to do his quadruple bypass and he's going to donate another million dollars to the hospital to show his appreciation. Sydney Harbour Hospital needs him, Evie. Where is he?'
'I don't know,' Evie said staring out of her father's office window at the boats sailing on the sparkling harbour, wishing she was riding out to sea on one and could leave all her troubles behind her.
She turned at the imperious command in his voice. 'What makes you think that I know where he is?' she snapped at her father.
'I'm not stupid, Evie. Do you think hospital gossip doesn't reach me all the way over here? I know you and he have a had a thing. A fling.' He shrugged. 'Whatever you want to call it. I'm assuming you've kept in touch.'
If Evie needed any other proof of how out of touch her father was with her life, or with life in the trenches generally, she'd just found it. If he knew Finn at all he'd know that Finn wasn't the keeping-in-touch type.
In the aftermath of their frenzied passion five months ago she'd hoped there'd been some kind of breakthrough with him but then he'd disappeared.
Gladys had told her the next day that he'd gone and handed her a note with seven words.
Goodbye Evie. Don't try and find me.
After all they'd been throughhe'd reduced their relationship to seven words.
'Evie!' Richard demanded again, at his daughter's continuing silence.
She glared at her father, who was regarding her as if she was two years old and deliberately defying him, instead of a grown woman. A competent, emergency room physician.
'The state of play between Finn and I is none of your damn business.'
'Au contraire,' he said, his brows drawing together. 'What happens at this hospital is my business.'
Richard Lockheart took the business of Sydney Harbour Hospital very seriously. As its major benefactor he worked tirelessly to ensure it remained the state-of-the-art facility it was, carrying on the legacy of his grandfather, who had founded the hospital. Sometimes she thought he loved the place more than he'd ever loved his wife and his three daughters.
Evie sighed, tired of the fight already. She was just so bloody tired these days. 'Look,' she said, reaching for patience, 'I'm not being deliberately recalcitrant. I really don't know where he is.'
She turned back to the view out the window. His brief impersonal note had been the final axe blow. She'd fought the good fight but there were only so many times a girl could take rejection. So she'd made a decision to forget him and she'd navigated through life these past five months by doing just that. By putting one foot in front of the other and trying not to think about him.
Or what he 'd left behind.
But there'd only ever been a finite amount of time she could exist in her state of denial and the first flutterings this morning had brought an abrupt end to that. She couldn't deny that she was carrying his baby any longer.
Or that he deserved to know. She turned back to her father. 'I think I know somebody who might.'
Evie had spent the last three afternoons pacing back and forth outside Marco D'Avello's outpatients rooms, waiting for his last expectant mother to leave, summoning up the nerve to go in and see him then chickening out each time as the door opened to discharge a patient.
Today was no different. It was five o'clock, the waiting area was empty and his door opened and she sprang from the seat she'd not long plonked herself in for the hundredth time in half an hour and headed for the lift.
His rich, beautifully accented voice stopped her in her tracks. Evie had to admit that Emily, his wife and a midwife at the hospital, was an exceptionally lucky woman to wake up to that voice every morning. Not to mention the whole dark, sexy Italian stallion thing he had going on.
Just waking up with the person you loved sounded pretty good to her.
He walked towards her. 'I have been watching you outside my door for three days now.' His voice was soft. 'Would you like to see me?'
Evie dithered. She wasn't sure what she wanted. She didn't know what an obstetrician could tell her that she didn't already know. And yet here she was.
'Come,' he murmured, cupping his hand under her elbow.
Evie let herself be led. Why couldn't she love someone like Marco? Someone who was gentle and supportive?
And capable of love.
She heard the door click behind her and sat in the chair he shepherded her towards. 'You are pregnant. Yes?' he said as he walked around to his side of the desk.
Evie startled gaze flew to his. 'How did you ?' she looked down at her belly, placing her hand over the bump that was obvious on her spare athletic frame if she was naked but not discernible yet in the baggy scrubs she wore at work.
Marco smiled. 'It's okay, you are not showing. I'm just a little more perceptive to this sort of thing. I think it goes with the job.'
Evie nodded, her brain buzzing. She looked at him for long moments. 'I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm here.'
He didn't seemed perturbed by her strange statement. She was pregnant. He was an obstetrician. It was where she should be. Where she should have been a lot earlier than now.
He just seemed to accept it and waited for her to talk some more.
'I haven't told anyone. No one knows,' she said, trying to clarify.
'How many weeks?'
Marco frowned. 'And you haven't seen anyone yet?'
'I've been busy.' Evie felt her defences rise, not that Marco seemed to be judging her. 'It's always crazy in the emergency department and time gets away '
She looked down at her hands still cradling her bump because what excuse was there really to have neglected herself, to have not sought proper antenatal care?
She was a doctor, for crying out loud.
'You have been well?'
Evie nodded, dragging her gaze back to Marco. 'Disgustingly. A few weeks of vague nausea in the beginning. Tired. I've been really tired. But that's it.'
She'd expected the worse when she'd first discovered she was pregnant. She'd figured any child of Finn's was bound to be as disagreeable as his father and make her life hell. But it had been a dream pregnancy to date as far as all that went.
Which had only made it easier for her to deny what was really happening to her body.
'We should do some bloods,' Marco said. 'Why don't you hop up on the couch for a moment and I'll have a feel?'
Evie nodded. She made her way to the narrow examination table and lay staring at the ceiling as Marco palpated her uterus then measured the fundal height with a tape measure. 'Measurements seem spot on for eighteen weeks,' he murmured as he reached over and flipped on a small ultrasound machine.
'No,' Evie said, half sitting, pulling down her scrub top. 'I don't want to I don't want an ultrasound.'
She didn't want to look at the baby. Not yet. She'd made a huge leap forward today, finally admitting the pregnancy to someone else. She wasn't ready for a meet and greet.
And she knew that made her all kinds of screwed up.
'I'm sorry,' she apologised. 'That's probably not the reaction you're used to.' She couldn't explain why she didn't want to see the babyshe just knew she didn't. Not yet.
Marco turned off the machine and looked down at her and Evie could tell he was choosing his words carefully. 'Evie you have left it too late to. do something about the pregnancy.'
Evie struggled to sit up, gratefully taking Marco's proffered hand as she sat cross-legged on the narrow couch. She had thought about termination but as with everything else pregnancy related she'd shoved it determinedly to one side.
She'd spent the past eighteen weeks not thinking about the babyher body aiding and abetting her denial by being virtually symptom-free.
She looked at Marco. 'I know. I don't want to.'
She stopped. Where had that come from?
Termination had been an option and one, as a doctor and a woman, she firmly believed should be available, but suddenly she knew deep down in the same place that she'd known she loved Finn that she loved his baby too. And that nothing would come between them.
He may not have let her in, let her love him, but there would be no distance between Finn's child and her.
She gave Marco a half-smile. 'I'm sorry. I don't think I really accepted until the baby moved a few days ago that I was actually pregnant. I'm still trying to process things.'
He smiled back. 'It's okay. How about we listen to the heartbeat instead and get some bloods done as a first step?'
Evie nodded and lay back and in seconds she was listening to the steady whop-whop-whop of a tiny beating heart. Her eyes filled with tears. 'There really is a baby in there.'
Marco smiled at her gently and nodded. 'Your baby.'
Evie shut her eyes. Finn's baby.
Finn Kennedy eased his lean frame into the low squatter's chair and looked out over the vista from the shaded serenity of the wide wraparound veranda. He liked it here in this rambling old house perched on a cliff top overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean. He gazed over acres of deep blue sea to the horizon, the constant white noise of the surf pounding against the rocks far below a wild serenade.
He liked the tranquillity. For too long he'd been keeping himself busy to block out the pain, drinking to block out the pain, screwing around and pushing himself to the limit to block out the pain.
Who knew that stopping everything and standing still worked better than any of that?
His muscles ached but in a good way. The hard physical labour he'd been doing the last five months had built up his lean body, giving definition to the long smooth muscles in his arms and legs. He felt fitter and more clearheaded than he had in a very long time.
He clenched and unclenched his right hand, marvelling in the full range of movement. He formed a pincer with his index finger and thumb and then tapped each finger in turn onto the pad of his thumb, repeating the process over and over. To think he'd despaired of ever getting any use of it back. It was weaker than his left hand for sure but he'd come a long way.
'As good as a bought one.'
Finn looked up at the approaching form of Ethan Carter, with whom he'd served in the Middle East a decade ago. 'I doubt I'll ever be able to open jam jars.'
Ethan shrugged, handing Finn a beer. 'So don't open jam jars.'
Finn snorted at Ethan's typical Zen-like reasoning as he lowered himself into the chair beside Finn's. Ethan, a Black Hawk pilot, had trained as a psychologist after his discharge from the army and Beach Haven had been his brainchild. An exclusive retreat for injured soldiers five hundred kilometres north of Sydney where they could rest, recover, rehabilitate and refocus their lives. Only partially government funded, Ethan worked tirelessly to keep up the very generous private funding that had come Beach Haven's way.
Neither of them said anything for a while, just looked out over the ocean and drank their beer.
'It's time, Finn.'
Finn didn't look at Ethan. He didn't even answer him for a long moment. 'I'm not ready,' he said eventually.
Prior to coming to Beach Haven, Finn would have thought being away from Sydney Harbour Hospital, from operating, was a fate worse than death. Now he wasn't sure if he ever wanted to return.
Dropping out and becoming a hermit in a beach shack somewhere was immensely appealing. Maybe he'd even take up surfing.
'Your arm is better. You can't hide here for ever.'
He turned to Ethan and glared at him with a trace of the old Finn. 'Why not?'
'Because this isn't who you are. Because you're using this to avoid your issues.'
'So I should go back to facing them in a high-stress environment where people's lives depend on me?'
'You've healed here, Finn. Physically. And mentally you're much more relaxed. You needed that. But you're not opening up emotionally.'
He shrugged and took a slug of his beer. 'I'm a surgeon, we're not emotional types.'
'No, Finn. Being a surgeon is what you do, not who you are. Beyond all those fancy letters after your name you're just a man who could do nothing but sit and cradle his dying brother while all hell was breaking loose around you. You couldn't help him. You couldn't save him. You couldn't stop him from dying. You're damaged in ways that go far beyond the physical.'
Finn flinched as Ethan didn't even try to pull his punches. In five months they hadn't once spoken about what had happened all those years ago. How Ethan had found a wounded Finn, peppered with shrapnel, holding Isaac.
'But I think you find some kind of emotional release in operating. I think that with every person you save, you bring back a little bit of Isaac. And if you're not going to open up about it, if surgery is your therapy of choice, then I think you should get back to it.'
More silence followed broken only by the pounding of surf.
'So you're kicking me out,' Finn said, staring at the horizon.
Ethan shook his head. 'Nope. I'm recommending a course of treatment. You're welcome to stay as long as you like.'
Finn's thoughts churned like the foam that he knew from his daily foray to the beach swirled and surged against the rocks with the sweep and suck of the tide. He knew Ethan was right, just as he'd known that this reprieve from the world couldn't last.
But his thoughts were interrupted by the crunching of tyres on the gravel drive and the arrival of a little red Mini sweeping into the parking area.
'Are we expecting an arrival today?' Ethan frowned.
'Not as far as I know,' Finn murmured. They watched as the door opened and a woman climbed out. 'Oh, crap,' Finn said.