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'The waiting room is packed and you've had five requests for home visits.' Flora handed Logan a prescription to sign, thinking that he looked more tired than ever. 'Given that they were all mobile and none of their complaints sounded life-threatening, Janet's managed to persuade them all to come to the surgery because it just isn't practical for you to go dashing around the island at the moment when you're running this practice on your own. What happens if we have a genuine emergency? You can't be in five places at once. We can't carry on like this, Logan. You can't carry on like this. You're going to drop.'
Logan looked at the prescription. 'Gentacin ear drops?'
'Pam King has an infection. She has her ears syringed regularly, but this time the whole of the canal is looking inflamed. There didn't seem any point in adding her to your already buckling list. I've taken off half your patients and if I can sort them out, I will. Otherwise I'll have to push them back through to you.'
'You, Flora Harris, are a miracle.' Logan signed the prescription. 'And persuading you to come back here as my practice nurse was the best thing I ever did. When Kyla and Ethan left, I couldn't imagine how we were going to cope. I lost nurse and doctor in one fell swoop.'
'Well, I've only solved one half of your problem. You still need to find a doctor to replace Ethan. Any progress?'
'I think so.'
'Seriously?' Flora picked the prescription up from his desk. 'You've found someone?'
'Ask me again at lunchtime. I'm expecting someone on the morning ferry.'
'Oh, that's fantastic.'Relieved, Flora relaxed slightly. 'Is he or she good? Well qualified?'
'It's a he.' Logan turned back tohis computer. 'And, yes, he's extremely well qualified.'
Flora stared at him expectantly. 'And ?'
'Aren't you going to tell me any more?'
'No.'He tapped a few keys and frowned at the screen. 'How are you finding Glenmore, Flora? I haven't really had a chance to ask you and you've already been here for a month. Everything going all right? Have you settled into Evanna's cottage?'
'Yes, thank you.' Hadn't they been discussing the new doctor? Why were they suddenly on the subject of her cottage? Why was he changing the subject? 'Evanna's cottage is beautiful. I love it.' It was true. She'd never imagined she'd live anywhere so pretty. 'You can see the sea from the bed ' she blushed ' but, of course, you already know that, given that the two of you are married. I'm sure you spent plenty of time in her cottage.'
'Actually, we didn't.' Logan glanced at her, amused. 'We usually stayed at mine because there was more room. Are you finding the work very different from the practice in Edinburgh?'
'Not really, but everything takes four times as long because this is Glenmore and people like to chat.'Flora gave a helpless shrug. 'I always seem to be running late.'
'You need to cut them off when they gossip.' Logan turned his attention back to the computer screen, searching for something. 'That's what the rest of us do.'
'I haven't worked out how to do that without appearing rude. I don't want to offend them. They're all so nice and they mean well.' Flora picked up the prescription and moved towards the door. 'Anyway, I'd better let you carry on. At this rate you'll still be here at midnight. And so will I.'
As she left the room and returned to her own consulting room she suddenly remembered that Logan hadn't given her any more clues as to the identity of the new doctor. On an island where no one kept a secret, Logan appeared to have one. Why? What possible reason could he have for being so cloak and dagger about the whole thing?
Who exactly had he appointed?
Conner parked the motorbike and dragged the helmet from his head. The rain had stopped and the sun fought a battle with the clouds, as if to remind him that the weather on Glenmore Island was as unpredictable as ever.
It was July and still the wind blew.
That same wind had almost landed him in jail at the age of sixteen.
Tucking his helmet under his arm, he strolled into the surgery. Nice job, Logan, he thought to himself as he took in his surroundings in one casual glance. Sleek, clean lines and plenty of light. Despite the early hour, the waiting room was already crowded with patients and he saw heads turn and eyes widen as he passed.
Without adjusting his pace, he ignored the reception desk and made for the first consulting room. As he approached the door a patient walked out, clutching a prescription in her hand. She took one look at him and stopped dead, her open mouth reminding him of a baby bird waiting to be fed.
'Conner MacNeil.' Her voice trailed off in a strangled squeak and he lifted an eyebrow, a sardonic expression in his eyes as he observed her mounting discomfort.
If he'd been in any doubt as to the islanders' reaction to his return, that doubt had now gone.
'Mrs Graham.' He was cool and polite, his neutral tone a direct contrast to her shock and consternation. He moved past her, knowing that he should cut short the encounter, but he couldn't quite help himself and he turned, the devil dancing in his eyes. 'I hope your beautiful garden is thriving. If I remember correctly, it's always at its best in July.'
Her soft gasp of outrage made it obvious that her memories of their last meeting were as clear as his and a smile played around his hard mouth as he walked into the consulting room without bothering to knock.
Mrs Graham's garden.
He still remembered the girl
He pushed the door shut with the flat of his hand and the man at the desk looked up.
'Conner.' Logan rose to his feet, welcome in his eyes as he stretched out his hand. 'It's been too long.'
'Not long enough for some,'Conner murmured, thinking of Mrs Graham who, he was sure, at that precise moment was still glaring angrily at the closed door. 'Prepare yourself for a riot. The locals will be arming themselves any minute now.' He shook the hand of the man who had been part of his boyhood.
'Kate Graham recognised you, then? I seem to recall that you were stark naked the last time she saw you.'
The devil was back in Conner's eyes. 'Mrs Graham had extremely tall delphiniums in her border,' he recalled. 'She only saw my face.'
Logan laughed out loud. 'You have no idea how pleased I am to see you. You're looking good, Conner.'
'I wish I could return the compliment.'Conner's dark brows drew together in a frown as he studied his cousin, taking in the faint shadows and the lines of strain. 'You've looked better.
Island life obviously doesn't suit you. You need to leave this backwater and find yourself a proper job.' But his tone was light because he knew that the medical care that his cousin delivered on this remote Scottish island was of exceptional quality.
'There's nothing wrong with island life, just the lack of medical staff. To run this place effectively we need two doctors and two nurses.' Logan rubbed his fingers over his forehead. 'It's been tough since Kyla and Ethan left. I lost a doctor and a nurse in one blow.'
Conner thought about his cousin. 'I never thought Kyla would leave this place.'
'She married an Englishman with itchy feet.'
'There's treatment for that.'
'Yeah.' Logan grinned. 'Anyway, it's only temporary and
I've replaced Kyla. Now you're here, so we're back on track.'
'If I were you, I'd postpone the celebrations until the whole island gets wind of your little plan. The jungle drums will start beating soon.'
'They're already beating.' Logan picked up his coffee-mug and then realised that it was empty and put it down again. 'My phone has been ringing and you've only been on the island for twenty minutes. You certainly know how to make a lasting impression, Conner MacNeil. What exactly did you do on that ferry?'
'Travelled on it. Apparently that was more than enough.' Conner stretched his legs out in front of him and put his helmet down on the floor. 'There's going to be a rebellion. If looks could kill, I'd be in your mortuary right now, not your consulting room. The natives will probably return to their roots and take up arms to defend themselves from the unwelcome invader. They're preparing themselves for rape and pillage.'
'Ignore them. You know what the islanders are like.' Logan reached for a pack of papers. 'They don't like change. Can you read this lot quickly and sign? Just a formality.'
'And you know how much I love formality,' Connor drawled softly, but he leaned forward to take the papers, grimacing when he saw the thickness of the documentation. 'Life's too short to wade through that much bureaucracy. What does it say? Conner MacNeil must not steal, destroy property or otherwise harass the citizens of Glenmore?'
'All that and the fact that all single women under the age of thirty are now considered to be in danger.' Logan's eyes gleamed as he handed his cousin a pen. 'The men of the island are locking up their wives and daughters as we speak and Mrs Graham is probably shovelling fertiliser on her delphiniums to increase their height and preserve her modesty and yours. Sign the back page.'
'Single women under the age of thirty? Why thirty? That doesn't give me nearly enough scope. I've always preferred experience to innocence.' Conner flipped straight to the back of the sheaf of papers and signed with a casual flourish.
Logan lifted an eyebrow. 'Aren't you going to bother to read what you just signed?'
'I'm presuming it's a load of rules and regulations.'
'And knowing that, you're prepared to sign? I thought you hated rules and regulations.'
'I do, but I trust you and I admire what you've built here on Glenmore.' Conner handed the papers back to Logan, a faint smile on his mouth. 'I promise to do my best for your patients. I'm not promising that I won't bend the rules a little if it proves to be necessary.'
Logan reached for an envelope. 'I bend them all the time. It's the only way to get things done. It's good to have you here, Conner.'
'I don't think everyone is going to agree with you. Judging from the shock on the faces I've seen so far, you didn't warn them in advance.'
'Do I look stupid?' Logan slipped the papers into the envelope and dropped it into the tray on his desk. 'I was waiting until you showed up.'
'Did you think I wouldn't?'
'Reliability isn't your middle name. I wasn't sure you'd actually do this when the time came.'
Connor gave a humourless laugh. 'Then that makes two of us.'
'But you did, so now I can break the happy news to the inhabitants of Glenmore. How have you been? Tell me, honestly.' Logan hesitated. 'It must have been hard '
'Coming back? Why would you say that?' Conner was surprised to find that his voice sounded so harsh. 'You know how much I love this place.'
Ignoring the sarcasm, Logan watched him steadily. 'Actually, I was talking about leaving the army.'
Conner realised that since he'd stepped off the ferry, he'd given no thought to the life he'd just left. All he could think about was Glenmore and how it felt to be back. The bad memories poured into him like some dark, insidious disease, gradually taking possession of his mind. 'Leaving the army isn't my problem at the moment.' he growled. 'And, anyway, I don't believe in living in the past when there's a perfectly good future to be getting on with.'
'Are you going to sell the house?'
'You get straight to the point, don't you?' Conner rose to his feet and paced across the room, keeping his back to his cousin as he rode the pain. 'Yes.' He turned, his eyes fierce. 'Why would I keep it?'
'So that you have a place on Glenmore?'
'If I'd wanted that,' Conner said softly, 'why would I be renting your barn?'
'Good point.' Logan gave him a sympathetic look. 'This must be hard for you, I know.'
'Nowhere near as hard as it's going to be for the locals.' Conner studied a picture on the wall. 'They're going to think that you've lost your mind, appointing me as the locum.'
'They'd be less shocked if you told them the truth about what you've been doing since you stormed off Glenmore all those years ago.'
'Island gossip has never interested me.'
'You sound like Flora. Her clinics are taking twice as long as they should because she doesn't like to interrupt people when they're chatting.'
'My practice nurse. She replaced Kyla.'
'Flora Harris?' Conner turned, the pain inside him under control. 'Daughter of Ian Harris, our island solicitor? Niece of our esteemed headmistresses?'
Cloudy dark hair, soft brown eyes, an impossibly shy and awkward teenager, and as innocent as the dawn
Logan's eyes narrowed. 'You didn't ever '
'Fortunately for her, there were enough wild teenage girls on the island who were more than happy to experiment, without me having to corrupt the saintly Flora. Anyway, she didn't take her nose out of a book for long enough to discover the existence of sex.'
'She isn't saintly. Just shy.'
'Maybe. But definitely not the sort of girl who would skip classes in favour of a practical session on human reproduction.' Conner rolled his shoulders to ease the tension. 'I'm not surprised she's a nurse. It would have been that or a librarian. Does she know I'm the new doctor?'
'She won't approve.'
'Even if she doesn't, she would never say so. Flora is sweet, kind and incredibly civilised.'
'Whereas I'm sharp, unkind and incredibly uncivilised. I'm willing to bet that the first thing she does, when she finds out about me, is remind you that I blew up the science lab.'
'I'd forgotten about that.' Momentarily distracted, Logan narrowed his eyes. 'What did you usepotassium?'
'Too dangerous. They didn't keep it at school.' Restless, Conner paced across the room again and scanned the row of textbooks on the shelf. 'But they did keep sodium. That was good enough.'
'It should have been in a locked cupboard.'
Logan laughed. 'I'm amazed you weren't expelled.'
'Me, too. Very frustrating, given how hard I applied myself to the task.' Conner suppressed a yawn. 'So I'm going to be working with Flora. The excitement of this place increases by the minute.'
'She's a brilliant nurse. She was working in Edinburgh until last month but we persuaded her to come back. And now you've joined us. I've been thinkingwe should tell the islanders what you've been doing with your life.'
'It's none of their business.'
Logan sighed. 'I don't see why you're so reluctant to let people know that you're a good guy.'
'Who says I'm a good guy? If you wanted a good guy for the job then you've appointed the wrong man.' Conner turned, a ghost of a smile on his face.