A little miracle
Sports doctor Jared Fraser won't be swayed by Dr. Bailey Randall's interfering research, no matter how beautiful she is. He's had it with beautiful womenexcept Bailey manages to get right under his skin.
Two years ago, an ectopic pregnancy ended her baby dreams and her marriage. Ever since, Bailey's written men and babies out of her lifeuntil arrogant yet delicious Jared makes her rewrite the rule book!
But after one magical night can Bailey's shock pregnancy ultimately heal both their hearts?
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'She's a bonny lass, our Bailey,' Archie said.
Jared's heart sank at the expression on the coach's face. Clearly Archie had taken a fancy to the researcher. And Jared had a nasty feeling that this might be a case of the coach's libido taking over from his common sense.
Allegedly, this 'bonny lass' researcher had a system that could reduce soft-tissue injuries among the players. So far, so goodbut the figures being bandied about were crazy. In Jared's experience, when something sounded too good to be true, it usually was. And he could really do without some pretty, flaky girl distracting the players and getting in the way when he needed to treat them. Especially when he'd only just started his new job as the doctor to the youth team of a premiership division football club.
He'd been here before, when a manager's or player's head had been turned by a pretty girl, and the outcome was always messy. Worse still, it tended to have an impact on the rest of the team. With a bunch of teenage lads, this could get very messy indeed.
But he kept his thoughts to himself and gave the coach a polite smile. 'That's nice.'
Hopefully this Bailey woman would get bored quickly, or her system would be debunked, and they could go back to a more sensible way of preventing soft-tissue injurieslike sport-specific training, after he'd assessed each of the players and taken a proper medical history.
In the meantime, he'd have to grit his teeth and be as polite and as neutral as possible.
'Baileyoh, good, you're here. Come and meet Jared Fraser, the new team doctor,' Archie McLennan called over from the side of the football pitch as Bailey walked through the players' tunnel.
Bailey smiled at the youth team's coach, but she made sure that she stood just far enough away so that Archie couldn't put his arm round her shoulders. She liked him very much as a colleaguehe was at least prepared to listen to new ideas and he'd been more than fair with her on the research project so farbut she really wasn't in the market for a relationship.
Particularly with someone who was recently divorced and with a lifestyle that really didn't work for her; that was just setting things up to fail. And Bailey had failed quite enough in her relationships, thank you very much. She wanted life to be simple in the futurefull of her family, her friends and her work, and that was enough for her. She didn't need anything more.
'Jared, this is Bailey Randallthe doctor whose research project I was telling you about,' Archie said.
For a moment, Jared looked as if he'd seen a ghost. Then he seemed to pull himself together and gave her a brief nod of acknowledgement. 'Dr Randall.'
But he didn't smile at her. Did he not approve of women being involved with a football team? Was he not good at social skills? Orgiven that his accent was quite distinctivewas he just living up to the stereotype of the slightly dour, strong-and-silent Scotsman?
It was a shame, because he had the most gorgeous eyes. A deep, intense bluethe colour of a bluebell carpet. If he smiled, she'd just bet his eyes would have an irresistible twinkle.
Which was crazy. Since when did she think so fancifully? Bluebells, indeed.
'Pleased to meet you,' she said, giving him her brightest smile, and held her hand out for him to shake.
He gave another brief inclination of his head and shook her hand. His grip was firm, brief and very businesslike. He still didn't smile, though. Or say any kind of social pleasantry.
Oh, well. It wasn't as if she'd need to have that much to do with him, was it? Her projectto test a monitoring system to see if it could help to reduce the number of soft-tissue injuries in the teamhad been agreed by the football club's chair of directors. She'd been working with Archie, the youth team coach, at training sessions and on match days when they played at home, and so far the system's results were proving very interesting indeed.
'Hey, Bailey.' John, one of the players, came over to the side and high-fived her.
'Hey, John. How's the ankle?' she asked.
'It's holding up, thanks to you,' he said with a smile.
'And you're still wearing that support?'
He nodded. 'And I'm doing the wobble-board exercises, like you showed me last time,' he said.
'Bailey helped out on a couple of sessions when she was here and your predecessor called in sick,' Archie told Jared. 'John sprained his ankle a few weeks back.'
'Sprained ankles are the most common injury in football,' Bailey said, just so Jared Fraser would know that she did actually understand the situationmaybe he was the dinosaur kind of man who thought that women knew next to nothing about sport. 'He was running when he hit a bump in the field, the sole of his foot rolled under and the movement damaged the ligaments on the outside of his ankle.' She shrugged. 'The wobble-board training we've been doing reduces the risk of him damaging his ankle again.'
Jared gave her another of those brief nods, but otherwise he was completely impassive.
Oh, great. How on earth was he going to connect with the players? Or maybe he was better at communicating when he was in work mode, being a doctor. She certainly hoped so, because the boys were still young enough to need encouragement and support; they weren't likely to respond to dourness.
'I ought to give you each other's mobile phone numbers and email addresses and what have youin case you need to discuss anything,' Archie said.
'I doubt we will,' Jared said, 'but fine.'
Oh, what was the guy's problem? She itched to shake him, but that wouldn't be professional. Particularly in front of the youth team. Doctors, coaches and managers were supposed to present a united front. OK, so strictly speaking she didn't work for the football clubshe was here purely as a researcherbut she still needed to be professional. 'Give me your number,' she said, 'and I'll text you with my email address so you have all my details.'
Once that was sorted out, she took her laptop out of its case. 'OK, guys, you know the drill. Let's go.' As the players lined up, she switched on her laptop, then called each team member by name and handed him a monitor with a chest strap, checking each one in with the laptop as she went.
'So what exactly is this system?' Jared asked when the players had filed onto the field to warm up. 'Some kind of glorified pedometer, like those expensive wristband gadgets that tell people they woke up three times during the night, but don't actually tell them why they woke up or what they can do about it?'
He sounded downright hostile. What was his problem? she thought again. But she gritted her teeth and tried her best to be polite. 'It does measure the number of steps the players take, yes,' she said, 'but it also monitors their average speed, the average steps they take per game, their heart rate average and maximum, and their VO2.' VO2 measured the amount of oxygen used by the body to convert the energy from food into adenosine triphosphate; the higher the VO2 max, the higher the athlete's level of fitness.
He scoffed. 'How on earth can you measure VO2 properly without hooking someone up to a system with a mask?'
'It's an estimate,' she admitted, 'but this system is a lot more than just a "glorified pedometer".' She put exaggerated quotes round the phrase with her fingers, just to make the point that she wasn't impressed by his assessment. Sure, once he knew what the system did and how it worked, she'd be happy to listen to him and to any suggestions he might have for improving it. But right now he was speaking from a position of being totally uninformed, so how could his opinion be in the least bit valid?
'The point is,' she said, 'to look at reducing the number of soft-tissue injuries. That means the players get more time to train and play, and they spend less time recovering from injuries. This particular system has been tested with a rugby team and it reduced their soft-tissue injury rate by seventy per cent, and my boss thinks it's worth giving it a try on other sports.' She gave him a grim smile. 'Just so you know, I'm not trying to put you out of a job. If anything, I'm trying to make your life easier by taking out the small, time-consuming stuff.'
'And you're actually a qualified doctor?' he asked, sounding sceptical.
Give me strength, Bailey thought, but she gave him another polite smile. 'Remind me to bring my degree certificate in with me next time,' she said. 'Or you can look me up on the Internet, if you're that fussed. I run sports medicine clinics three days a week at the London Victoria, so you'll find me listed in the department there, and I spend the other two working days each week on a research project.'
'So you're using this system of yours with other teams as well?' he asked.
'Nothis is the only team I'm working with, and I only do one research project at a time. My last one was preventative medicine,' she explained. 'Basically I worked with patients who had high blood pressure. The aim was to help them to lose weight and maintain lean muscle mass, and that reduced both their blood pressure and their risk of cardiovascular incidents.' She couldn't resist adding, 'And by that I mean heart attacks and strokes.'
'Right.' Jared stared at Bailey. Archie had called her a 'bonny lass', but she was so much more than that. She was truly beautiful, with a heart-shaped face and huge brown eyesemphasised by her elfin crop. She looked more like some glamorous Mediterranean princess than a doctor.
But, in Jared's experience, beautiful women spelled trouble and heartache. His ex, Sasha, had used her stunning looks to get her own wayand Jared had fallen for it hard enough to get very badly burned. Nowadays he was pretty much impervious to huge eyes and winsome smiles. But he'd already seen how Archie was following Bailey round like a lap-dog; he had a nasty feeling that Bailey Randall had used her looks to get her own way with her ridiculous bit of computerised kit, the way Sasha always used her looks.
Still, at least this system of hers wasn't something that would actually hurt the players. It wouldn't be of much real uselike the pricey fitness wristbands he'd referred to earlier, it wouldn't give enough information about what was actually wrong or how to fix itbut it wouldn't do any real harm, either.
Jared spent the session on the side of the pitch, ready in case any of the players had an injury that needed treating. But there were no strains, sprains or anything more serious; and, at the other end of the scale, there wasn't even a bruise or a contusion.
Half a lifetime ago, he'd been one of them, he thought wryly. A young hopeful, planning a career in the sport and dreaming of playing for his country. He'd actually made it and played for the England under-nineteen squad, scoring several goals in international matches. But Bailey Randall's bit of kit wouldn't have done anything to save him from the knee injury in his final gamethe tackle that had stopped his football career in its tracks. Jared had ended up pursuing his original plans instead, studying for his A-levels and following in the family tradition by taking a degree in medicine.
The lure of football had drawn Jared to work with a club as their team doctor, rather than working in a hospital or his parents' general practice. And he still enjoyed the highs and lows of the game, the camaraderie among the players and hearing the supporters roar their approval when a goal was scored.
At the end of the training session, Archie turned to Bailey. 'Over to you.'
Jared watched in sheer disbelief as Bailey proceeded to take the youth team through a series of yoga stretches and then breathing exercises.
What place did yoga have on a football pitch? In his experience, the players would do far better working on sport-specific training. As well as ball control, they needed to focus on muscular endurance and lower-body strength, and also work on explosive acceleration and short bursts of speed. If Archie wanted him to do it, Jared could design a training programme easily enougheither a warm-up routine that would work for the whole team, or some player-specific programmes to help deal with each player's weak spotsand it would do a lot more for the players' overall neuromuscular coordination than yoga would.
But having a go at Bailey Randall in front of the team wouldn't be professional, so Jared kept his mouth shut until the lads had gone for a shower and she was doing things on her laptop. Then he walked over to her and said, 'Can we have a quick word?'
She looked up from her laptop with an expression of surprise, but nodded. 'Sure.'
'What exactly does your box of tricks tell us?' he asked.