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The overhead lights in the observation ward were off as Annie Jameson swiped her ID card and raced in through the rear entrance of the accident and emergency department with a surprising ten minutes to spare before her late shift started.
Eight empty beds lay waiting to be filledwhich was good news. The theory was that the obs ward should be cleared by middaypatients either discharged or transferred to a ward. But in practice that rarely happened: when a doctor saw an empty bed and his patient had been stuck in A and E for several hours too long, the obs ward invariably ended up becoming a mini high dependency unitwhich the emergency department had to staff. Annie was one of the more senior nurses, which often meant that, rather than actually nursing, her time was taken up directing the never-ending flow of traffic in the department, finding beds, gurneys, staff and often transport.
'Hey, Annie,' came a few calls. Walking into the staffroom was as familiar and welcoming as walking into her own living room.
Midday was the busiest timestaff coming in for the late shift, doctors who were waiting for results and whoever had been allocated an early lunchand seating was at premium. But, after placing her salad in the fridge and swigging on her water bottle, Annie saw that for once her favourite comfy chair was free and she collapsed with a loud groan and put her feet up on one of the coffee-tables.
'I'm exhausted,' she grumbled to her audience. 'It took an hour to get my nails done, then I had two painful hours at the gym, and
' Her voice sort of stopped, just for the teeniest, tiniest fraction of a second as she took in the unfamiliar face among her regular colleagues. 'I'm ready to drop. Is Jackie on today?'
'Is she ever?' Louise, a fellow associate charge nurse, rolled her eyes. There were two consultantsMarshall, who was winding down for retirement, and Jackie, who was winding up for a nervous breakdown. And currently everyone wanted to be working with Marshall. 'I'll be glad when this wedding is over,' Louise carried on. 'Everything, and I mean everything, ends up being about the wedding. I was setting up to put in a catheter and moaning that we were low on packs and somehow
Annie wasn't really listening. She looked, no doubt, as if she was listening, nodding in all the right places and adding little 'I know's' to the conversation. But instead her eyes were wandering, sort of casually drifting around the room, coming to rest on the clock so she could be sure she wouldn't be late for handover but sneaking a quick glimpse of the stranger who had caused her to falter.
Tall and dark, he was stretched out on a chair and he was stunning. Black hair, worn just a hint too long, framed a sculpted face, a full, very sulky mouth was moving to yawn and perhaps the reason she hadn't noticed him at first was because he didn't seem new.
New members of staff, whether porter or consultant, had that sort of anxious-to-fit-in lookand were either nodding furiously at the conversation or had their heads buried in a paper, trying to pretend they weren't there.
This delicious specimen, though, was scratching a rather unshaven chin and listening with vague interest to what everyone had to say.
And he'd caught her looking.
Slate-grey, almost black, and rather reprobate eyes held hers for just a second, that tiny second where you looked and he looked and it was just a tiny bit too long to be called polite, just that tiny fraction long enough to know that you were definitely female and he was definitely maleand both of you have noticed.
Her heart rate had only just recovered from her workout and now here it was edging over the 100 mark again.
Most of the staff in the room stood, draping stethoscopes round necks, checking paperwork or begging for a pen, while the early lunches remained sitting at the main table along with
Who was he?
'Hey, Iosefyou've got those blood gases to do.' Beth, one of her colleagues, addressed him.
'I'll be there soon.' There was just a smudge of an accent that Annie couldn't identify as Beth carried on talking.
'What time are you on until, then?'
'Ten,' came the surly reply.
Annie stayed with the pack as they all headed out to the floor and though two of Annie's most pressing questions had already been answeredhis name was Iosef and he was here till tenit just led to another. What sort of a name was Iosef?
'Gorgeous, isn't he?' Beth nudged Annie as they made their way to Section A, which was the main hub of activity in Emergency.
'Who?' Annie attempted, but Beth just grinned.
'Don't even pretend you don't know who I'm talking aboutthe new senior registrar. Well, he's made it clear that he doesn't intend to stay a senior registrar for very longhe wants Marshall's position when he retires.'
'He's only just started here.'
'Oh, but he knows where he's finishing. I hope he gets it,' Beth added. 'He's just gorgeousnot that any of us mere mortals stand a chance. You know who he is, don't you?'
'You just said.' Annie frowned as they arrived at the nurses' station and waited for Cheryl, the charge nurse, to appear, ready to receive handover. 'He's the new senior registrar.'
'He's a Kolovsky!' Beth whispered, and Annie's jaw dropped. And not just a cousin five times removed he's one of the sons.'
The Kolovsky family were Melbourne icons. Russian immigrants, Ivan Kolovsky along with his wife Nina had set up a fashion house years ago and now the House of Kolovsky had a reputation the world over for their stunning fashion designs and gorgeous fabrics. But here in Melbourne, where there was no royal family for the press to snap and a dearth of super-models and Hollywood film stars to photograph, the Kolovsky family added a necessary dash of international sizzle to the gossip columnstheir inordinate wealth and lavish, jet-setting ways had them regularly hitting the headlines, and never more so than recently. The eldest son, Levander, a rake by anyone's standards, had recently fallen head over heels in love and got married, yet even though he and his wife had moved to the UK the press still followed them mercilesslyespecially with the recent birth of their baby. And now Ivan Kolovsky, the founder and patriarch of the family, was rumoured to be on his deathbedrumored because at every turn the Kolovskys' spin doctors issued denials. Barely a week went by without a mention of them in the press and on the news. As a lavish devotee of the glossies, Annie raked through the trashy part of her memory bank and came up with the necessary goods. Beth was telling the truthone of the sons was a doctor.
'Wow.' Annie blinked at the rather drab surroundings, at the 24/7 organised chaos of a busy emergency department that just didn't somehow equate to the name Kolovsky. Despite the hour of the day a drunk was singing loudly in his cubicle and there was nothing glamorous about the pile of patients in the waiting room or the huddle of nurses awaiting handoverand she couldn't help but watch as he wandered through, a bag of ice in his hand, presumably on his way to do his blood gases.
'He's thoroughly spoken for,' Beth grumbled. 'You should see his girlfriend, Candyshe's absolutely stunning. Mind you, if he wants my opinion, she's just a touch old for him.'
'I'm sure he doesn't.'
'He might.' Beth grinned.
'You've seen her?'
'You will have, tooshe's graced many a cover of Vogue in her day. She pops in now and thenall feverish and ravishing. Cow.' Beth pouted then gave a cheeky grin. 'Still, there's no law against looking.'
Handover took for everwhich it always did on Mondays. The department was heaving with the usual backlog of a heavy weekend, patients waiting in the corridors for the wards to empty out after the Monday morning ward round so they could be admitted.
'We've emptied the obs ward,' Cheryl said, 'but Jackie wants it to remain closed till six p.m.'
That was not an uncommon order on a Monday. The observation ward was supposed to be used only for emergency patients who would remain under the care of the emergency doctorshead injuries who needed twenty-four hours of regular observations before discharge or patients awaiting tendon repairbut all too often, when patients had already spent far too long on a hard gurney, it wound up filled with patients that belonged under other specialties, and this was the issue that they were trying to address.
'Right.' Cheryl peered down her list of nursing staff for the late shift. 'Beth, can you cover Resus? Annie, give her a hand if needed, and I want you take cubicles one through to five.'
'Sure.' Annie smiled, though she'd far rather be in Resus.
'Oh, I forgot to mention cubicle two's absolutely refusing to get undressed and be examined properly. We managed to get an ECG but that's it. Iosef said not to push it for now. He's waiting for a doctor to suture him. I've told the intern.'
'Who's the intern this afternoon?'
'George.' Cheryl rolled her eyes. 'We might actually get some work out of him this shift, given that Melanie's not on duty. Mind you, there's no real hurry to get cubicle two suturedI'm pretty sure he's going to be admitted to Obs.'
Cubicle two turned out to be one Mickey Bakera rather inebriated gentleman who'd provided the background music during handover, and was now snoring contentedly. And though in the real world it might make perfect sense to let him sleep off his excess, Annie needed to do a thorough set of neurological observations to set her own baseline in case he deteriorated during her shift.
Afternoon, Mickey,'Annie called to her patient, and then called again. 'Mickey, can you open your eyes for me?' She watched as he struggled to do just that then thought better of it. 'Mickey, open your eyes, please, and tell me where you are.'
'Bloody hospital,' he growled, bloodshot eyes peeking open. 'Now, would you let me get some rest?'
'You know I can't do that, Mickey.' Annie smiled wryly, shining a torch in his eyes to check that his pupils were equal and responsive to light. 'Now squeeze my hands for me. Come on, squeeze them hard,' she insisted as Mickey reluctantly did as he was told. Clearly more than used to the drill, he lifted his legs in turn without being prompted as Annie checked off the boxes in her observation chart.
'Now can I rest?'
'For now,' Annie answered. 'Though I'll be back shortly to set up for the doctor to come in and suture you.'
'Any chance of something to eat, Annie?' Mickey asked, his eyes still closed. Annie couldn't help but smile. Mickey was one of their occasional regulars, coming in off the streets every few months. As well as getting his scalp sutured or his ulcers dressed or whatever it was that brought him in, he'd usually get a good feed and a much-needed bath and change of clothes before he went on his merry way. And though he hadn't been in for a few months now, that he remembered her name from last time brought an unseen smile to Annie's face.
'A lunch has been ordered for youit should be here soon. After that we'll get you a bath'
'I don't want a bath,' he snapped, rolling on his side. 'I just want something to eat.'
'Sure.' Annie nodded, but she gave a little unnoticed frown. Mickey was hiding something, but till he'd sobered up and was a bit more co-operative there really wasn't much that could be done about it. 'You rest up till lunch comes and whatever you do, don't get off the trolley. If you need anything at all, just press the call bell.'
Her hand was up, about to swish the curtain right back so Mickey could be easily watched, when suddenly it was pulled back, making Annie jumpand not just at the motion. Never had a curtain opened on such a stunning cocktail of sensations.
The breeze of the curtain was heavily laced with the most potent male scent and close up Iosef was even more divine. 'How is he?'
Annie wasn't exactly short, but he towered over her. Even allowing for his rather more senior status, he was superbly dressed. Black trousers sat low on his slender hips, a thick white cotton shirt with a thread count that was surely in the millions set off a stunning gunmetal grey tie that almost exactly matched his eyes. Though Annie barely got a glimpse of them as he strode past her and proceeded to take the blood-pressure cuff off the wall and wrap it around a grumbling Mickey's arm.
'Fine. I've just done his obs,' Annie said, picking up the chart and offering it to him as he pulled on his stethoscope. 'His blood pressure's'
OK, a lot of people shushed others when they were concentratingno doubt, she did it herself several times a day when she was trying to pick up a difficult blood pressure or listening to a chestbut it was more the way he'd shushed her that had Annie's teeth grinding, the dismissive shake of his head, the brief wave of his free hand as he shooed the obs chart away that had her bristling.
'Good!' he said, more to himself than her, taking off his stethoscope and wrapping it round his neck before pinching Mickey's ear none too gently. Afternoon, sir,' he called, and the old boy rolled over and requested, not too politely, that the doctor please just leave him alone. Annie spoke up again.
'I've just done his neuro obs.'
'Good.' He nodded, again completely ignoring the proffered chart, his findings clearly just to satisfy himself. 'Once I've sutured him, I want him moved to the observation ward.'
'I thought George was going to suture him.'
'He's my patient!' Iosef shrugged.
' Annie started, unsure why a senior reg would choose to do the rather menial tasknot that he was listening. Instead he was picking up the file and heading out through the curtains. 'Well, there's no rush, whoever stitches him. The obs ward is closed till six,' Annie called to his departing back. 'Jackie wants'
'Jackie wants the beds used for emergency patients onlywhich Mr Baker is. Anyway, I want this cubicle cleared.'
'It just confuses things if we open it,' Annie protested. 'Other doctors see that it's open and'
'Are you confused, Nurse?' he asked, halting her explanation in its tracks as she stared open-mouthed at possibly the rudest introduction to a colleague she'd ever experienced. 'Because if you are confused, I will explain things more simply: I want my patient in a bed, I want this cubicle to be utilised rather than providing a babysitting service because it's easier for the nurses to keep the obs ward closed. If you have a problem asserting yourself and telling doctors that they cannot use the emergency beds, send them my way and I will explain it to them.'