One life-changing moment…
Three years ago, Dr Henry Cavanaugh walked out of nurse Maia Tahana's life, unable to allow himself a happy future after his family lost their lives. But now he's back — and working in her emergency department! Worse still, he's more irresistible than ever…
Henry might have sworn off love, but when a powerful earthquake hits Christchurch he's faced with a prospect he can't bear…losing Maia forever. Now he has to fight with everything he has to win her back for good!
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About the Author
Emily Forbes is an award winning medical romance author for Harlequin Mills & Boon. She has written 28 books and in 2013 won the Australian Romantic Book of the Year for her novel Sydney Harbor Hospital: Bella's Wishlist.
Get in touch with Emily at email@example.com, via her website http://www.emily-forbesauthor.com/, her Author Page on Facebook or chat with Harlequin Medical Romance authors at http://loveisthebestmedicine.wordpress.com/
Read an Excerpt
'Christchurch has been rocked by the biggest earthquake we've had for some time. Just after five o'clock this morning a quake measuring seven-point-one on the Richter scale was recorded; its epicentre was forty kilometres west of the city and it occurred at a depth of eleven kilometres. Several old buildings have collapsed but, while there have been numerous injuries, there are no reported fatalities at this stage. Injuries have been caused by falling masonry and glass butjust repeatingthere are no fatalities at present. We 're crossing live now to our reporter
Maia Tahana pulled the headphones out of her ears as she walked through the automatic doors of the emergency department of the Canterbury Children's Hospital, cutting the radio journalist off midsentence. The story of the quake wasn't news to her; she'd been woken by it, jolted out of a comfortable sleep by a deep bass rumble and the sound of breaking glass. Her heart had hammered in her chest as the house shook and the windows rattled in their frames. It had sounded as if a freight train was hurtling past the front door but Maia had known that was impossible. The closest thing to the house was the Pacific Ocean, fifty metres away on the other side of the sand dunes that ran at the bottom of the gardenbut it hadn't been the pounding of the surf that had shaken the house and its foundations.
The noise had been frightening and the movement of the house disturbing but it wasn't an unfamiliar experience. Maia had lived in Christchurch, New Zealand, all her life; she'd been through this before. Christ-church experienced thousands of earthquakes each year. She remembered hearing it was somewhere in the vicinity of thirteen thousand, which seemed like an enormous number, but she knew that not all of them were felt by people. Some were only detected by seismic equipment, but it was still a huge number, and it wasn't unusual around here to feel the ground moving beneath your feet.
Minor quakes were something that barely caused the locals to blink, let alone miss a beat. If the power wasn't interrupted, if no one was hurt and if there was no major damage, then the tremors were mostly ignored. But this one had been big and much closer to the surface. There had been a couple of smaller aftershocks and Maia was pleased to hear there had been no fatalities. Perhaps she could expect a regular shift, if ever there was such a thing for an emergency-department nurse in a busy paediatric hospital.
The emergency department seemed quiet when Maia walked in but she was superstitious enough not to say anything. The moment someone mentioned the 'q' word always seemed to be the moment all hell broke loose. She decided to grab a coffee while she had a chance. She needed a double dose of caffeine after being woken by the quake. She and her sisters had been sweeping up broken crockery and glass since four this morning and she hadn't had a chance to go back to sleep. She checked her watch. She had time.
She walked into the empty kitchen and took a coffee cup from the cupboard. She had her back to the kitchen door but she heard it open as she lifted a new pod from the box on the bench beside the coffee machine. The room filled with the scent of cedar wood and citrusgrapefruit, not oranges. The scent was familiar to her. It was the scent of an ex-boyfriend. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, letting the memories flood back. A slight smile played across her lips as she remembered Henry.
She opened her eyes and mentally shook herself. She didn't have time to waste on old memories. She dropped the coffee pod into the machine, waiting for the aroma of freshly brewed coffee to clear her mind. Henry was a long time ago. He was her past. Well and truly. Her life had moved on. She had changed. Life had changed her.
But as she pushed the button to start the coffee-making process she could have sworn she heard his voice.
The rounded vowels of his English accent were instantly recognisable. No one else made her name sound like he didsexy and desirable, full of promise and suggestion.
Her imagination was working overtime.
'Maia?' His voice repeated her name and this time she turned around.
Three years evaporated in the blink of an eye as her past collided with her present.
Henry was standing in front of her.
He looked exactly the same: tall, dark and still the most beautiful man she'd ever seen. His features were faultlessly symmetrical. His square jaw was chiselled and his full lips were perfectly shaped. His indigo-blue eyes were the exact same shade as the chest feathers of the pukeko bird. He stood over six feet and he was solid, but in a lean, muscular way. Not fat. He looked just like she rememberedhis hair was cut shorter than usual, his dark curls tamed, but he was otherwise unchanged. He was incredibly gorgeous and he was standing five feet away when she'd thought he was on the other side of the world.
'Henry? What are you doing here?'
She wanted to reach out and touch him, to see if he really was real, to make sure it wasn't her imagination playing tricks on her but, if it was, it was extremely good. She resisted the temptation. She wasn't sure what would be considered appropriate behaviour.
'I'm back.' He smiled at her as he gave her his answer and Maia's heart skipped a beat. He had a little dimple in the centre of his chin that disappeared when he smiledhow had she forgotten about that?
She could see he was back. What she wanted to know was why and when and how long for but all she could do was stare at him.
'I didn't know you worked here,' he said to her.
Maia nodded. Her mouth was dry and her tongue appeared to have glued itself to the roof of her mouth. She forced it free and swallowed as she tried to moisten her throat so she could speak. 'I left the Queen Liz eighteen months ago,' she told him.
When Henry had left Christchurch three years ago Maia had been working in the emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospitalthey both hadbut she had quit that job eighteen months ago after her father had passed away. She hadn't wanted to nurse adults anymore; she'd needed a break and the Children's Hospital had needed staff.
'I'm sorry about your dad,' Henry said, putting two and two together with the timing. 'He was a good man.'
Henry had always had an uncanny ability to read her thoughts and it seemed as if that hadn't changed.
'Thank you,' she said but she didn't want to think about her father. She didn't want to think about the last few months of his life. Her dad had suffered a stroke and Maia had helped to nurse him. It had been a difficult and emotional time, and his death had hit her hard. She had spent a vast amount of the past three years grieving. First for Henry and then for her father. She was only just coming to terms with it all now.
The coffee machine beeped at her and she turned away, grateful for the distraction, grateful for the reason to break eye contact and the chance to gather her thoughts. But her first thought was about Henry.
Why was he back?
The comms system crackled overhead. 'All ED staff to triage.' Maia heard the voice of Brenda, the ED director, summoning the staff.
Her hand shook as she added sugar to her coffee and picked up the cup. Henry held the door open and fell into step beside her. She wasn't going to escape the past that easily.
'What are you doing here?' she asked. When Henry had left Christchurch three years ago she had never expected to see him again. He had never mentioned coming back; he'd made her no promises. He'd gone off to save the world, leaving her behind, and Maia could only assume that she didn't feature in his future plans at all. That had been a bitter pill to swallow but she'd managed to do it eventually.
'I'm doing project work in disaster management and the New Zealand government offered me a grant to come back. I'll be looking at the systems in place in the hospitals and how they would cope with mass-casualty incidents. But I'll be attached to the Children's. I thought it was an offer too good to refuse.'
That surprised her. Not his project choicehe was an emergency-medicine specialist and she'd known about his interest in disaster managementbut the fact that he was back at all was a surprise. When he'd left he'd had plans that were bigger than New Zealand.
'Well, your timing couldn't be better,' she told him. 'You got an earthquake to order.'
'Looks like I did but it hasn't caused too much havocand, although that's fortunate for Christchurch and her residents, it's not very useful for my purposes.'
'I guess you can't have everything.'
'I guess not.'
Henry's indigo eyes searched her face. He seemed able to look through her brown eyes into her soul and his gaze, intense, powerful and passionate, made her knees go weak. She remembered this look. It was the look he would give her when they'd made love. The look that had made her think she was the only girl in the world he would ever need.
She looked away.
That wasn't the case and she wasn't that girl anymore.
'When did you get back?' she asked.
'A couple of days ago. I spent yesterday in orientation and induction and now I hope I'm ready to go.'
Yesterday she'd been rostered off. Today her world was changing.
As she and Henry assembled in triage along with the other staff, Maia saw Carrie, her best friend, standing on the opposite side of the group. She raised her eyebrows in a silent question at Maia when she saw who was by her side. Maia gave a slight, almost imperceptible shake of her head. She didn't want Carrie asking questions.
'If I can have everyone's attention ' the ED Director said as she scanned the group, obviously deciding everyone was present and accounted for. Brenda waited for the conversational noise to cease before continuing. 'There's been an accident involving a school bus and we've got several ambulances headed our way.'
Maia shouldn't even have thought about it being quiet.
'Apparently the earthquake triggered a landslide which caused the bus to crash but I don't have any more detail than that. The bus driver has been airlifted to the Queen Elizabeth and the plan is to bring all the kids to us. There were sixteen primary school children on the bus. Varying injuriesfractures, cuts, bruises, some suspected head injuries and possible spinal injuriesand all of them will be in shock.' She glanced at the clock on the wall. 'ETA five minutes.'
'It seems you got your disaster after all,' Maia said quietly to Henry as Brenda went on.
'For those of you who haven't met him yet, I'd like to introduce Dr Henry Cavanaugh. Henry is a UK-trained emergency-medicine specialist with a special interest in disaster management. He did part of his fellowship in Christchurch at the Queen Liz but this time he is seconded to our hospital and he will be looking at our management systems, as well as taking on a clinical workload.'
Maia could see Carrie making a beeline for her and by her expression she could tell she was in for a grilling. She really needed to process Henry's return before she was ready for it to be dissected in a discussion with anyone, even her best friend. But she knew her chances of putting Carrie off were next to none so all she could do was ensure that the conversation didn't take place in public.
Henry was about to be swamped by other emergency staff who hadn't yet met him so Maia headed for the change rooms, deciding she would quickly change into surgical scrubs. Carrie followed her, as she'd known she would. She and Carrie had been best friends since their first year of high school. For thirteen years Carrie had been by Maia's side. She'd been through everything that had happened to Maia over the past three years and longer.
The moment the door closed behind them, Carrie asked, 'Did you know he was back?'
Maia stripped off her uniform and hung it on a spare coat-hanger, exchanging her clothes for hospital-issued scrubs. 'Who?
'Yes, Henry,' Carrie replied as Maia stepped into a pair of surgical pants and tied the drawstring at her waist.
'No. You know we haven't kept in touch.' They had agreed on a clean breakthat had been his suggestion, not hersand she'd spoken to him exactly twice in three years. He had called her once when her father had suffered his first stroke and again when he had died. That had been their only contact. Henry wasn't part of her life anymore.
'How did your date go last night?' Maia asked as she tugged the pale-blue cotton shirt down over her head.
'Don't change the subject.'
'I'm not. Henry being back is not a subject. Not one that affects me anyway.'
Carrie raised an eyebrow. 'You sure?'
Even though Maia had known the fairy tale hadn't had the happy ending she'd wanted, and she'd pretended he hadn't broken her heart when he'd left, it had taken her a long time to recover. But eventually she'd been able to consign him to her past and to think of him without feeling like her heart was being ripped in two. They'd wanted different things in life. Things had worked out for the best.
'Positive,' she said as she lifted her hand to gather her long, dark hair into a pony-tail, wrapping and tucking the end to make a messy bun. Her engagement ring caught the light, reminding her to remove it, and she slid it off her finger and onto the necklace where she wore it while she was working.
She was engaged to be married. Henry was an ex-boyfriend. Not the love of her life.
'He's an ex-boyfriend, that's all.'
Henry was her past. Not her future.
He wasn't her Henry any more.