Jessica Halliday is producing a documentary to support Belfast's Community Children's Hospital, and she needs handsome pediatrician Rob Campbell on board. But to persuade him she'll have to put her heart on the line and open up about her infertility
Jessica's confession leads Rob to share a part of his heart he's long kept hidden. With an unexpected intimacy created after just one kiss, their walls begin to crumble. Can Rob create a new happy-ever-after this time with Jessica by his side?
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About the Author
Karin Baine lives in Northern Ireland with her husband, two sons, and her out-of-control notebook collection. Her Mother and Grandmother's vast collection of books inspired her love of reading and her dream of becoming a Harlequin Mills & Boon® author. Now she can tell people she has a proper job!
You can follow Karin on Twitter, @karinbaine1 or visit her website for the latest news – karinbaine.com
Read an Excerpt
The bank of monitors filled with Dr Dream-boat's handsome profile as he strode past the remote camera in the hospital corridor. Jessica could see why the female members of the production team, and some of the men, had bestowed the nickname upon him. His strong stubbled jawline, wavy dark hair and piercing blue eyes made Rob Campbell perfect eye candy. With the rolled-up sleeves of his shirt bunched at his biceps and his sand-coloured trousers taut across muscled thighs, the guy looked as if he should be playing rugby and smashing into other huge beasts rather than holding hands with poorly children. As the consultant paediatric oncologist at the Belfast Community Children's Hospital, he was a vital link between the patients, staff and camera crew. It was a shame he'd been so reluctant for the documentary series to go ahead in the first place.
He'd voiced his considerable concern that they were violating his patients' privacy at the production meetings and it was in the project's best interest for Jessica to get him on board. Regardless of the hospital board's decision to allow filming and the crew's assurances that they would be sympathetic and respectful to all involved, the consultant had treated their presence here with quiet disdain. Jessica hadn't addressed him directly in the few days they'd been on-site to prepare for filming and instead had focused on building a rapport with the families on the ward. She had the signed consent forms of those willing to participate and didn't want anything to jeopardise everything she'd worked towards. This meant more to her than ratings and job security.
Cancer had been a huge part of her life; it still was in some ways. Not content to hijack her childhood, it had also tried to dictate her future. The after-effects of her treatment had followed her into adulthood and triggered early menopause. Just as she'd started to recover her femininity, that life-stealing illness had dealt the ultimate blow and made sure she could never be a whole woman.
Well, cancer had taken on the wrong redheaded warrior to tango with. It could take away her fiancé who couldn't deal with a barren future wife. It could take away the daughter she'd always dreamed of pampering like a little princess. But it couldn't take away her spirit. Nor anyone else's if she could possibly help it. If this series brought more funding to the hospital and helped even one child with their fight, it would be worth the pain it caused Jessica to relive her own.
The easiest way to allay Dr Campbell's fears that they'd trample over anyone in the pursuit of a good story would be to explain she was a survivor of childhood leukaemia herself. It would substantiate her plea that she simply wanted to raise public awareness of the incredible work that went on here. But that would mean exposing her weakness and the last time she'd done that it had cost her everything.
Adam, the man she'd thought she'd spend the rest of her life with, simply hadn't been able to cope with her health problems and who could blame him? When a man proposed to a vibrant young woman, he didn't expect to be marrying some prematurely aged, decrepit version of her. Their engagement had ended once Jessica's failings as a woman had become apparent. The hot flushes, mood swings and childless future had been difficult enough for her to deal with, never mind live alongside.
In tear-filled hindsight, he probably hadn't been the right man for her. Although he'd been right when he'd told her no man should be expected to take her on now that she was infertile. It would be selfish of her to ask that of anyone, not to mention detrimental to her well-being to imagine it a possibility. She'd only got through her body's changes and the break-up by accepting her fate as an eternal singleton and moving on. These days, her career was her significant other and these programmes filled that void where a family should be. They were her babies and she cherished every one. Each successful production she made was validation of her worth and all that she needed to fill her life. No man could ever make her feel as good as the awards and accolades bestowed on her for her work to date.
Now, not even an uncooperative oncologist could persuade her to divulge that deeply personal medical information lest it be used against her in some way. She'd worked too hard to put the pain of the past behind her to use it as a bargaining tool.
This was the first day of shooting and Jessica wanted to get it off to the best start possible. She'd done some reading up on Dr Campbell, enough to understand where his passion lay, and it wasn't a million miles from her own. He was leading the fundraising drive to pay for an MRI scanner for the Children's Hospital. There was no reason they couldn't use the airtime to promote the cause and perhaps cultivate a more harmonious relationship at the same time.
With that in mind, Jessica left the busy hub of the mobile production unit situated in the grounds of the hospital car park and went in search of her latest challenge. She'd learned at an early age to meet every obstacle in her path head-on and Rob Campbell was no exception. A liberal application of lip gloss, and a toss of her bouncy auburn curls later, she was ready to make contact with her target. She strode through the hospital entrance with a confidence that wasn't one hundred per cent genuine.
It was still early morning, the best time to do a recce around the corridors while it was relatively peaceful, quiet except for the sharp tap of her stilettos on the tiled floor. The impending sense of doom which descended as she navigated the maze of corridors had less to do with first-day nerves and everything to do with her residual hospital phobia.
The bright, airy atmosphere of the modern hospital was a far cry from the imposing Victorian building she'd attended for treatment. Instead of dark and imposing corridors, this wing was lined with colourful frescos designed to appeal to the children who attended.
Despite the visual differences and the time she'd had to get used to the surroundings, the glare of fluorescent lights and smell of bleach and antiseptic still took her back to a time when she wasn't so in control of her own destiny. Her steps faltered as a tide of nausea washed over her and forced a halt to her journey. She leaned against the wall, fighting to regulate her breathing and quell her rebelling stomach.
Inhale. Count to five. Exhale. Try not to puke on your expensive red-soled shoes. Repeat until normal brain function returns.
Jessica pulled off her heels so her stockinged feet rested flat on the cool floor, back on solid ground. This wasn't about her. She was a visitor this time around, a grown-up replacing that pitiful figure who'd once resided here. When she'd first heard about this opportunity, she'd jumped at the chance to take part, regardless of her personal experience, perhaps even because of it.
Good or bad, hospital life had been a huge part of her childhood. Without the staff who'd looked after her, she would never have made it past adolescence, never mind the ripe old age of twenty-eight. Finally, she was in a position to pay something back. Replacing a husband and two point four kids with an impressive CV and impeccable professional reputation meant she could shine a light on a worthy cause. Nothing was going to stand in the way of that. Not her own personal issues and certainly not a difficult doctor who didn't know the first thing about her.
The double doors at the end of the corridor swung open and closed as staff walked in and out, giving a quick flash of the elusive consultant in his natural habitat. Every glimpse of Tall-Dark-and-Handsome reminded her how he'd earned his hospital heart-throb status. The nurses were flitting around him like groupies around a rock star and she was sure there were a few hoping to catch his eye for more than professional reasons. She could see why his good looks and high-ranking position seemed to attract every female within a five-mile radius but Jessica's focus had to remain on her project. There was no time for distractions. Certainly not a sexy, six-foot-plus reallife superhero one.
She gave herself a mental shake and coaxed her mind away from the image of her new work colleague in body-hugging Lycra and tights. Fantasy rarely lived up to reality anyway.
With another deep breath, she drew herself up to her full five feet eight inches and made her way towards him, her shoes still in hand. Since any infection was potentially life-threatening to those on the other side of the doors, she paused only to squirt some hand sanitiser from the dispenser on the wall before she entered the ward.
Dr Campbell was standing at the nurses' station, his back to her, exuding a don't-come-any-closer authority without even trying. It took every ounce of her courage to edge closer to him.
'What do you want?' He didn't look up from the charts he was studying as he barked at her. It was the tone a busy and important professional used to fend off time-wasters so that only the bravest souls would persevere with their queries. She used it herself from time to time.
Having seen him in action on the ward from a distance, she knew how tender he could be under different circumstances. Clearly he didn't intend to make friends with her any time soon. Jessica reminded herself she'd taken on much worse than a doctor with a chip on his shoulder and lived to tell the tale.
'Hi. I'm Jessica Halliday, a producer for the documentary series currently being filmed. I was hoping we could have a quick chat before filming gets underway.'
'No can do. I have a full schedule this morning, even if I thought there was any point in speaking to you.' That gruff Scottish accent could've reduced a lesser mortal to a puddle of hormones, or tears. Not this girl. She didn't do swooning. Although when he did eventually turn around she might have shivered a tiny bit under his blue steel stare.
'It's important the viewers see the stories from the staff point of view as well as the patients'. I really think we could both benefit from working together and, as the man in charge, your input means a lot to the show.' As much as it galled her to sacrifice her pride, she wasn't averse to using flattery in order to get his approval.
'I'm sure there are a lot of men who would bend over backwards to keep you happy, Ms Halliday.' The doctor swept his gaze over her and, to her horror, a tingle of awareness danced across her skin. Male appreciation wasn't unfamiliar to her when a busy lifestyle ensured she kept her slim figure. However, she wasn't in the market for an inflexible male, and she didn't appreciate her body trying to convince her otherwise.
'I have no interest in reality television. If I did, I'd audition for one of those singers' got-no-talent shows instead of piggybacking on the misfortunes of the sick for celebrity status. I've consented to filmingthat doesn't mean I'll pretend to be happy about it. These kids are going through enough without having cameras and microphones shoved in their faces. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have patients to see.' He broke off eye contact and returned to shuffling his paperwork.
The visual dismissal was the human equivalent of being hit with a fly swatter. Thanks to one lifealtering break-up, Jessica didn't take rejection well. Her self-esteem demanded she leave more of an impression than an indistinguishable smudge in his day.
She shot out her hand to still his and demand attention. If she'd imagined him to feel like the cold fish he'd portrayed, the heat burning her fingertips where she touched him told her otherwise. Before she could linger on that thought, he snatched his hand away, frowned and took a step away from her as though she was contagious.
The snub stung like a sunburn in a hot shower. From her expensive clothes habit to her regular beauty treatments, she worked hard to make an impression on people. And to feel good in her own skin. She couldn't help but take any unwarranted slight against her personally and there was only one way to soothe the burn. With cool, hard facts.
'I'm sorry you feel that way about what we are trying to do here. For the record, this is not a reality showit's a factual documentary series. As we explained before, our intention is to provide an accurate record of the process here and how serious illness affects the lives of everyone involved. I'll have to interview the staff and patients, so we'll need to draw up a schedule I know there's a disused storeroom we can use for that once it's cleaned up It would be great if we can organise a team meeting between my crew and yours every morning to coordinate filming. I hope we can find a way to work together, Dr Campbell, because I would really like to help'
'I think you're under the misapprehension that we're somehow colleagues. I am not here to make your job easier, but to ensure my patients receive the best care available. For their sake I hope you don't get in the way of that.' He swept the files under his arm in one smooth motion and started to walk away before she had a chance to mention the MRI scanner.
As if sensing her mentally swearing at him, the consultant turned back. 'And please put your shoes on and at least try to be professional here.'
With her livelihood on a collision course with his ego, Jessica hopped across the floor after him, desperately trying to wedge her shoes back on her feet. As the go-to person on these productions, she didn't normally get flustered. She was the cool one in a crisis. Until now. She put it down to the surroundings rather than being nervous around this particular man.
'I am trying to be professional, if you would only cooperate.'
He stopped, arched a mocking eyebrow at her as she bobbed about like an inebriated socialite falling out of a nightclub, and walked on. She'd underestimated the strength of his objection and his unease was going to be even more noticeable on camera. She needed to fix this. Fast.
'I want to help with the fundraising for the MRI scanner.'
That soon stopped him in his tracks and he turned to face her.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Kiss To Change Her Life by Karin Baine Jessica Halliday is producing a documentary to support the Belfast’s Community Children’s Hospital. They do so much for children with cancer and they need to have an MRI scanner there to help make the diagnosis faster and also to be more stress free for the parents. Jessica herself had more than a job interest in the production as she herself spent so much of her early years in and out of hospitals as she was a survivor of childhood leukemia herself. It had taken away her childhood, her illness followed her straight into adulthood and the after affects triggered very early menopause and all that went with it. The doctor that she would be working with is Dr. Rob Campbell. He was not pleased and felt that this production would violate and invade into the children and parents lives. But it was stories that needed to be told in order to be able to get that scanner. Jessica and Rob had to have some serious conversations and Jessica must admit to Rob that she had the hospital and the children’s best interest at heart. But in doing so she must reveal what she had endured and still has the after effects of the cancer and treatment. Jessica had been engaged to be married, however right before the wedding her fiancé, Adam dumped her as he wanted children and she could not give him what he wanted. Jessica and Rob spent time together and they both realized that there were things in both their pasts that needed healing and they learned that they could work together for the good of the children and also personally. I totally admire the writing style of Karin Baine and the amount of research that was done to write this story. You will not be disappointed and it is a story that will stay with you.
A 4.5, really. Jessica and Rob have their own demons to lose their sleep over but they bond. And what a bond it is. Though it all begins with it being a casual fling for as long as Jessica - a media person - and Rob, an Oncologist, are together while filming happens in the Children's Cancer Hospital. The angst and the throbbing emotion behind all the actions of these two made me feel to hug them at times and to swat them over their head at times. It was a book that made me cry in a few very emotional places and that says something about the emotional intensity of it all as I am tough nut to crack. Worthy of the time spent reading this one.