Dr. Ethan Walker arrives on the remote Scottish island of Glenmore to spend one summerand one summer onlyas a temporary doctor at the island's surgery. He is almost immediately attracted to nurse Kyla MacNeil, the heart of the island community. Ethan can't reveal his real reason for being on the island, and although his head tells him he should stay away from Kyla, he is unable to resist their burning attraction.
As the long summer days begin to fade, Ethan starts to wonder whether he can walk away from the woman and the tranquil island, which have captured his heart....
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THE ferry docked in the early morning.
It was the start of summer, a fresh June day with plenty of cloud in an angry sky, and Ethan stood by the white rail with the other foot passengers, his eyes on the shore. The cool wind whipped playfully at his dark hair as if to remind him that this was remote Scotland and that meant that even summer weather was unpredictable.
Despite the early hour, the harbour was already busy and people were milling around the dock, buying fish straight from the boats and passing the time of day. From his vantage point high on the boat, Ethan could see a cluster of cottages, a café, a gift shop and an oldfashioned greengrocer with fruit and vegetables artfully arranged to draw the eye and the customer. From the harbour the road rose, snaking upwards and then curving out of sight along the coast.
Even without the benefit of local knowledge he knew where that road led. In fact, he felt as though he knew every contour of Glenmore island, even though he'd never been here before.
As if to remind himself of his reason for being there, he slipped a hand into his pocket and fingered the letter. He'd done the same thing so many times before that the notepaper was crumpled and the writing barely legible in parts, but he didn't need to read it because he'd long since committed the contents to memory.
The description in the letter had been so detailed, the words so vivid that already the island felt familiar. In his mind he'd felt the cold chill of the wild, inhospitable mountains that clustered in the centre of the island and he'd walked the rocky shores that had sent so many ships to their doom. In his imagination, he'd sailed the deep loch and scrambled on the ruins of the ancient castle, the site of a bloody battle between Celts and Vikings centuries earlier. Glenmore had a turbulent past and a rich history thanks to the fierce determination of the locals to maintain their freedom.
Wasn't that what everyone wanted? It was certainly one of the reasons he was there. He needed to escape from the throttling grip of his past.
Suddenly Ethan wanted to sprint to the top of the highest point and breathe in the air and then he wanted to plunge into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean and swim with the porpoises that were reputed to inhabit this area. It felt good to escape from external pressures and the expectations of others and he had to remind himself that being there wasn't about escape, it was about discovery.
He'd come for answers.
And he intended to find those answers.
If he happened to enjoy being in this wild, remote corner of Scotland, then that was a bonus.
Ethan felt a sudden lift in his spirits and the feeling was as surprising as it was unexpected.
Well-meaning colleagues and friends had told him that he was mad to bury himself all the way up here on a Scottish Island. With qualifications like his, he should have been returning to Africa with all its medical challenges, or working at the renowned London teaching hospital where he'd trained. They'd warned him that Island life would be dull. Nothing but ingrowing toenails and varicose veinsold ladies moaning about the pressures of advancing age. He would be bored within a week.
A faint smile touched Ethan's classically handsome face. It remained to be seen whether they were right about the lack of job satisfaction, but at the moment it wasn't boredom he was feeling. It was exhilaration.
And a deep sadness for the loss of something precious and irreplaceable.
He breathed in deeply and felt the salty air sting his lungs. It was time to leave the ferry. Time to begin. He started to move away from the rail and then he paused, his eye caught by a tall, slender girl who was weaving her way through the groups of people hovering on the dock, awaiting the arrival of the ferry. She walked with bounce and energy, as if she had a million things to do and not enough time, returning greetings with a wave and a few words, hardly breaking stride as she made for the boat. Her hair was long and loose, her smile wide and friendly, and she carried a large sloppy bag over one shoulder. Anchoring it firmly, she leapt onto the ramp of the ferry with the grace of a gazelle.
Not a girl, he saw immediately, but a young woman, perhaps in her early twenties, and everything about her was vital and energetic.
The wind drew the conversation upwards. "Hey, Kyla, you can't come on without a ticket." The ferryman strolled towards her, a grin on his weathered face, and the girl reached up and planted a kiss on his cheek, her eyes twinkling.
"I've come for my deliveries, Jim. Logan ordered some equipment from the mainland and I've orders to collect it before breakfast, along with the post and the new doctor."
Ethan frowned. Kyla. The letter had mentioned Kyla and finally he was putting a face to the name. And it was a lovely face. So lovely that he found that he couldn't look away.
The ferryman was hauling a sack onto the dock. His boots were dusted with sand and there were streaks of oil on his arms. "The new doctor?"
"That's right. We ordered him from the mainland, too." The woman stooped to help him with the sack. "He'd better be good quality. If not, he's going right back. My poor brother needs help in the surgery almost as much as he needs a decent night's sleep."
Jim snorted. "Not likely to get it, with that bairn of his almost a year old."
Ethan watched as Kyla's pretty smile faltered for a moment. "He's doing all right. My aunt's been really busy at the café so one of the Foster girls has been helping him for the past few weeks. She's good with the baby. It's working out well."
"Until she starts building up her hopes and hearing wedding bells, like everyone else who goes near that brother of yours."Jim reached behind him and picked up a parcel and a bag of post. "I suppose this is what you're after. You're up early for a girl who went to bed late. It was a good party last night. Don't you ever lie in?"
She dropped the post into the bag on her shoulder and lifted the parcel carefully, balancing it in her arms. "Find me someone decent to lie in with, Jim, and I'll be happy has to keep everyone on this island healthy and strong."
"Any time you want company in that lonely old cottage of yours, just say the word."
Kyla opened her mouth to reply but the words didn't come and the beautiful smile faded as she stared at something.
It took a moment for Ethan to realise that he was that something. And another moment for him to realise that he was staring back and that he'd walked almost to her side without even noticing that he'd done so. He'd been drawn to her and the knowledge unsettled him. He was accustomed to being in control of his reactions, especially when it came to women.
Irritated with himself, he kept his tone cool. "I heard you mention that you're meeting the new doctor. I'm Dr Walker. Ethan Walker." He watched her face for signs of recognition, relieved when he saw none. Why would there be? It wasn't a name she'd know. And he had no intention of enlightening her. Not yet. He needed time to establish himself. Time to assess the situation without the complications that revealing his identity would inevitably arouse.
He watched as the wind picked up a strand of her blonde hair and blew it across her face.
"You're Dr Walker?"Her gaze was frank and appraising with no trace of either shyness or flirtation. She made no secret of the fact he was under scrutiny and he had the strangest feeling that if she hadn't liked what she'd seen she would have sent him back on the ferry to the mainland. a faint smile.
His lifestyle wasn't compatible with long, meaningful relationships and he was careful to avoid them, but that didn't mean he wasn't capable of appreciating feminine appeal when it was standing in front of him.
At another time, in another place he might have done something about the powerful thud of attraction that flared between them, but he reminded himself that romance would only tangle the already complicated.
He tried to analyse the strength of his reaction tried to provide a logical explanation for the primitive
It was true that she was striking, but he'd been with women more beautiful and more sophisticatedwomen to whom grooming was a full-time preoccupation. No one could describe Kyla's appearance as groomed. She was as wild as the island she inhabited, her hair falling loose over her shoulders in untamed waves and her face free of make-up. But her smile was wide and her eyes sparkled with an enthusiasm for life that was infectious. She looked like a woman who knew the meaning of the word happiness. An optimist. A woman who was going to grab life round the throat and enjoy every last second.
Aware that he was still staring, Ethan reminded himself firmly that his reasons for coming to the nethermost reaches of Scotland didn't include a need for female company.
"I'm Kyla MacNeil. Logan's sister." She balanced the parcel on one arm and extended a hand. "Welcome to Glenmore, Dr Walker. If you come with me, I'll take you straight up to the surgery and then I'll show you your new home and help get you settled in."
"You're Logan's sister?" Ethan stared down into her blue eyes and searched for a resemblance. "He talked about a little sister "
"That's me. I'm twenty-five years old but that's six years less than him so I suppose that makes me his little sister. Are you going to shake this hand of mine, Dr Walker? Because if not, I'll put it away."
Wondering why he was at a loss with a woman when he'd always considered himself experienced with her sex, Ethan shook her hand and nodded to Jim. "Thanks for the lift. I'll be seeing you around."
"If you're the new Island doctor, I hope you won't. The only time I plan to see you is in the pub or when I'm waving you goodbye as you leave this place." Jim stepped back as the last of the cars clanked its way down the ramp and onto the quay. "I intend to stay healthy."
"Talking of which, how's that diet of yours going?" Kyla clutched the parcel to her chest and Jim pulled a face. "Ever since she talked to you about what I should be eating, all Maisie seems to cook these days is fish and porridge. No bacon and eggs and I haven't seen a piece of cheese since the sun last shone, and that's a while ago. Life's just miserable. The only good thing is that Logan's stopped nagging me because he's very pleased with my cholesterol. It's come right down on that new drug."
"That would be the statin he switched you to. Glad to hear it's working. Well, we need to go. I need to get to the surgery or Logan will be grumbling. Take care of yourself, Jim. The forecast for the end of the week is storms."
Jim gave a grunt and watched as the last car clattered its way over the ramp and onto the island. "Wouldn't be Glenmore if we didn't have storms."
She turned to Ethan. "Didn't you bring a car?"
"I've been working abroad until recently. I took the train but my car is being delivered later today. I gave them the address of the surgery."
"In that case, you'll need a lift to the surgery. It's too far to walk."
Ethan shifted his case into the other hand. "Let me carry the box for you."
"All right. I'm not one to reject a chivalrous gesture, even in the twenty-first century." She relinquished the parcel and adjusted the bag on her shoulder. "Don't drop it. It's a new defibrillator. One of those ones that talks to you, although, knowing my brother, if it starts to give him instructions he'll probably argue with it."
Ethan took the parcel from her and followed her along the quay, watching the way everyone converged on her.
"Kyla."An elderly woman crossed the street to speak to her. "I read that leaflet you gave me about strengthening your bones "
"Glad to hear it, Mrs Porter." She paused, her smile friendly. "All OK?"
"Oh, yes. It advised you to walk more and lift weights. I'm a bit too old for the gym, so I filled some empty milk bottles with water and I've been using those."
"Great idea. Well, if you have any questions you can find me in surgery and we can have a really good chat. And don't forget to speak to Evanna about doing her exercise class."
She walked on a bit further before she was stopped by one of the fishermen who was untangling his net. "Nurse MacNeilI need to have those stitches of mine taken out."
"How's the leg feeling?"
She nodded. "It was a nasty cut. You need to keep it up when you're resting. Pop in on Friday and I'll take the stitches out and take another look at it. If you need antibiotics, I can have a word with Logan."
She walked on, somehow managing to acknowledge everyone's greeting in a friendly manner while avoiding lengthy conversation.
Ethan watched in silent admiration, trying to imagine something similar happening in London and failing. In London everyone kept their eyes forward and went about their own business. "You know everyone."
"This is an island, Dr Walker. Everyone knows everyone." She scraped her unruly hair out of her eyes and lifted an eyebrow in his direction. "Is that going to be a problem for you?"
"Why would it be?"
Her glance was assessing. "You're a city boy and the one thing that you can guarantee in a big, soulless city is anonymity. And that suits some people. Not everyone wants folks knowing their business."
A city boy.
Ethan thought about the places he'd worked in, the dust, the heat and the sheer weight of human suffering. She had no idea. Oh, yes, he'd experienced anonymity. The sort where you shouted and no one listened.
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