Falling for her daredevil doc…
Summer Pearson thinks she knows all about daredevil paramedic Dr Zac Mitchell — his playboy antics are the talk of the town! But in fact, he's the total opposite — and utterly irresistible!
Zac was expecting a warm welcome from pint-sized Summer Pearson. Yet all he's got so far is winter. But when buttoned-up Summer finally lets him in, she captivates Zac in ways no woman has done before.
So when Summer's past finally comes knocking, can Zac convince her that he's here to stay?
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He was nothing like what she'd expected.
Well, the fact that he was tall, dark and ridiculously good-looking was no surprise for someone who'd been considered the most eligible doctor at Auckland General Hospital a couple of years ago but Summer Pearson had good reason to believe this man was a total bastard. A monster, even.
And monsters weren't supposed to have warm brown eyes and a smile that could light up an entire room. Maybe she'd made an incorrect assumption when she'd been given the name of her extra crew for the shift.
'Yep. My gran still calls me Isaac, mind you. She doesn't hold with names being messed around with. She's an iceberg lettuce kind of girl, you know? You won't find any of those new-fangled fancy baby mesclun leaves in one of her salads because that's another thing that shouldn't get messed with.'
Good grief he was telling her about his granny? And there was sheer mischief in those dark eyes. Salad greens and names were clearly only a couple of the many things Zac was more than happy to mess around with. Summer could feel her eyes narrowing as the confirmation of her suspicions became inevitable.
'And you used to work in Auckland? In A&E?'
'Sure did. I've spent the last couple of years in the UK, though. As the permanent doctor on shift for the busiest helicopter rescue service in the country.'
The base manager, Graham, came into the duty room, an orange flight suit draped over his arm.
'Found one in your size, Zac. And here's a tee shirt, too. I see you've met Summer?'
'Ah we hadn't got as far as a proper introduction.'
Because she'd been grilling him like a prosecution lawyer in a courtroommaking sure of the identity of the accused before firing the real ammunition? Summer felt her cheeks getting pink.
'Sorry,' she muttered. 'I'm Summer Pearson. Intensive Care Paramedic. I've been with the rescue service for nearly three years now.'
'I've heard a lot about you.' An eyebrow lifted and his tone dropped a notch. 'And it was all good.'
No was he trying to flirt with her?
I've heard a lot about you, too. And none of it was good
Pretending she hadn't heard the compliment, Summer turned to Graham. 'I'll do the usual orientation while we're quiet, shall I?'
A groan came from the doorway as another man entered the room. 'Oh, no did she just say the Q word?'
'She did.' Graham shook his head. 'What's your guess?'
'I'll give it six.' Graham grinned at Zac. 'Running bet on how long till a job comes in after someone says the Q word. Worst performer of the week restocks the beer fridge. Meet Monty, Zacone of our pilots.'
The men shook hands. Then they all looked at Summer and she tried to erase the expression that felt remarkably like a scowl from her face.
'Three minutes,' she offered reluctantly. Wishful thinking, maybe, but how good would it be if what was likely to be a complicated winch job came in and an untrained doctor had to be left on base in favour of experienced crewmen? 'So I guess we'd better get started on the orientation.'
'Just show him where everything is,' Graham said. 'Zac, here, is the most highly trained doctor we've ever had joining us. Fully winch trained. He's done HUET and he's even part way through his pilot's training.'
Summer could feel the scowl creeping back. She refused to be impressed but it was difficult. Helicopter Underwater Escape Training was not something for the fainthearted.
Zac was shrugging off the praise. 'I'm passionate about emergency medicine, that's all. And the challenge of being on the front line is a lot more exciting than working inside a controlled environment like an emergency department. Maybe I haven't really grown up yet, and that keeps me chasing adventures.'
Immaturity was no excuse for anything. It certainly didn't mitigate ruining someone's life and then walking away. Summer tried to catch Graham's eye. Could she tell him she really wasn't comfortable working with this new team member?
She didn't get the chance. The strident signal from the on-base communication system told them a job had come in.
Monty checked his watch. 'Two minutes, ten seconds. You win, Summer.'
She picked up her helmet and jammed it on her head. She didn't feel as if she'd won anything at all.
She was nothing like what he'd expected.
Well, she was small. No more than about five foot four at a guess. Her head barely reached his shoulder and that was including the spikes of her short blonde hair. Pocket rocket, his ED colleagues had told him. But don't be fooled. She's as tough as. And one of the best paramedics in the business.
But they'd also told him she was Summer by name and sunny by nature. And that she was great fun to work with. You're a lucky man, they'd said.
He'd been expecting summer and he'd got winter instead. Funny, but he didn't feel that lucky.
Or maybe he did. Here he was in a chopper again and he hadn't realised how much he was missing the excitement of being airborne and heading for the unknown. Not only that, he was doing it over the sparkling blue waters of his home town instead of the grey British skies he'd become so familiar with. And they were heading for even more spectacular scenery on the far side of the Coro-mandel Peninsulaone of his most favourite places on earth.
'Car's over a bank,' he heard through the speakers built into his helmet. 'On the 309, between the Kauri grove and Waiau Falls. Ambulance and fire service are on scene.'
'The 309's still a gravel road, I presume?'
'You know it?' Monty sounded surprised.
'Spent most of my childhood holidays on the Coromandel. I'm into water sports.'
'Talk to Summer.' Monty chuckled. 'Queen of the paddleboard, she is.'
Zac would have been happy to do exactly that but it only took a glance to see that she had no desire to chat. Her face was turned away and she gave the impression of finding the view too fascinating to resist.
She still looked small, with the wide straps of her harness across her chest. The helmet looked too big for her head and while someone might be excused for getting the impression of a child playing dress-up, they'd only need to see her profile to sense a very adult level of focus and what was it Judgement?
Yeah He felt as if he'd been tried and judged and the verdict had not been favourable.
But he'd never even met the woman before today so what was he being judged on?
Was she some kind of control freak, perhaps, who didn't appreciate having someone on board who had a medical authority higher than hers? Or did she require confirmation that a newcomer's ability was what it appeared to be on paper?
What wasn't acceptable was making said newcomer feel less than welcome. Undesirable, even.
As if she felt the force of his frown, Summer turned her head. Her gaze met his and held longer than could be considered polite.
Yeah she was fierce, all right. Unafraid.
Who was going to look away first? Defusing tension was a skill that came automatically for Zac. He might have had to learn it for all the wrong reasons when he was too young to understand but shades of that ability still came in handy at times. All it usually took was turning on the charm. He summoned his best smile and, for a split second, he thought it was going to work because she almost smiled back. But then she jerked her head, breaking the eye contact.
A deliberate snub? Zac tamped down a response that could have been disappointment. Or possibly annoyance. Neither would be helpful in establishing a good working relationship with this unexpectedly prickly young woman.
'You should get a good view of the Pinnacles on your side in a few minutes,' Summer said.
'Might get a bit bumpy going over the mountains,' Monty added. 'I'll get an update on scene info as soon as we get over the top.'
When he'd first started this kind of work, Zac would be using this time to go over all the possible medical scenarios in his head and the procedures that might be needed to deal with them. A chest decompression for a pneumothorax, perhaps. Management of a spinal, crush or severe head injury. Partial or complete amputations. Uncontrollable haemorrhage. But the list was long and he'd learned that there was no point expending mental energy on imaginary scenarios.
He'd also learned that it was better to start a job without assumptions that could distract him from the unexpected. And that he could deal with whatever he found. This time was better used to relax and centre himself. The view of the spectacular bush-covered peaks below them was idealand definitely better than trying to make conversation with someone who clearly had no intention of making his life any more pleasant.
'ETA two minutes.'
'Roger.' Summer leaned forward in her seat to get a better view of the ground below. 'Vehicles at eleven o'clock. I can see a fire truck and ambulance.'
'Copy that,' Monty said. 'Comms? Rescue One. On location, on location.'
The chopper tilted as they turned. Monty was using the crew frequency now. 'Turning windward,' he advised. 'I think the road's going to be the only landing place.'
'Got a bit of a tilt to it. No wires, though.'
'No worries,' Monty said. 'Be a bit dusty, folks. Okay right skid's going to touch first.'
They had the doors open before the dust cloud had cleared. Zac released the catch of his safety harness first and hoisted one of the backpacks onto his shoulder as they climbed out.
Summer picked up the other pack and a portable oxygen cylinder and followed. Weirdly, it felt like she was used to working with this guy already. Maybe that was because he seemed to know exactly what he was doing and he wasn't waiting to follow her lead. At least he stood back when they reached the knot of people standing by the side of the road near the fire truck so it was Summer that the fireman in charge of the scene spoke to first.
'We've got the vehicle secured but haven't got the driver out. It's a bit of a steep climb.'
'Yes. An eighty-three-year-old woman.
'I'd say two.' An ambulance officer joined them. 'GCS was lowered on arrival. She's confused and distressed. Airway seems to be clear but we haven't got close enough to assess her properly yet and, given the MOI and her age, there's every probability she has serious injuries.' 'Access?'
'Ladder. It's a few metres short of the target, though. You'll have to be careful but there's plenty of trees to hang on to.'
'Cool. We'll go down and see what's what.' Summer glanced at Zac. Tall and broad-shouldered, his size and weight would make the climb and access to the vehicle much harder than it was for her. It would probably be sensible for him to suggest waiting up here on the road while she did an initial assessment and made their patient stable enough to be extricated by the fire crew.
'Want me to go first?' he asked. 'And test the ladder?'
'If you like.' Summer passed her backpack to a fireman who was ready to secure it to a rope and lower it down. Not that it was needed, but she had to give him points for thinking about her safety.
Looking at the narrow ladder lying on the crushed and probably slippery ferns of the bush undergrowth on an almost vertical cliff face, she had to acknowledge those points.
'Yeah you going first is a good idea, Zac.
There'll be less damage done if I land on you rather than the other way round.'
'Impersonating a cushion is one of my splinter skills.' Zac handed his pack to the fireman and then turned without hesitation to climb onto the ladder. A rope attached to the top and anchored to the back of the fire truck was preventing it sliding downwards but it couldn't control any sideways movement. Another rope was attached to the back of the small car that could be seen protruding from the mangled scrub and ferns a good fifteen metres down the bank.
'She was lucky the scrub cushioned the impact,' the fireman said. 'Probably why she's still alive.'
Zac was halfway down the ladder now and climbing carefully enough not to make it swing. Summer caught the top rung and turned her body to find a foothold. She loved the kind of challenge this sort of job presented. The ladder was easy. Getting down the last stretch when you had to slide between trees was harder. There were fire crew down here but it was Zac who was moving just ahead of her and every time he caught himself, he was looking back to make sure she'd reached her last handhold safely.
It was Summer who needed to take the lead as they got close enough to touch the car. A small hatchback well buried in undergrowth left virtually no room for a large man to see much. The front passenger window had been smashed. Summer put her head in the gap.
'Hi there Frances, is it?'
The elderly woman groaned. Her voice was high and quavery. 'Get me out. Please ''
'That's what we're here for. My name's Summer and I've got Zac with me. Are you having any trouble breathing, Frances?' don't think so.'
'Does anything hurt?'
'I I don't know I'mscared ?
Summer was trying to assess their patient visually. Pale skin and a bump on the head that was bleeding. She could see the woman's chest rising and falling rapidly. The more distressed she was, the harder it would be to assess and try to move her.
The window on the driver's side was broken too and suddenly there was movement as the prickly branches of scrub got pushed aside. The face that appeared was wearing a helmet. How on earth had Zac managed to get down that side of the vehicle?
Not only that, he was reaching in to touch the woman. To put a calming hand on her forehead, probably to stop her turning her head to look at him in case she had injured her neck.
'It's okay, sweetheart,' he said. 'We're going to take good care of you.'
Sweetheart? Was that an appropriate way to address an eighty-three-year-old woman?
'Oh ' Frances didn't seem offended.
'Oh. Who are you?'
'I'm Zac. I'm a doctor.' 'Do I know you?'
'You do now.' He leaned in further, a lopsided smile appearing as he make a clicking sound like someone encouraging a pony to move. The sound was accompanied by a wink.
'Oh ' The outward breath sounded like a sigh of relief. There was even a shaky smile in response. 'Thank you, dear. I've been so scared.'
'I know.' His voice was understanding. Reassuring. Was he holding a hand or taking a pulse in there? 'Summerare you able to open the door on your side? It's jammed over here.'
With the assistance of a fireman and a crowbar, the answer was affirmative.
With the new space, Summer was able to ease herself cautiously into the car. The creaking and slight forward movement of the vehicle made her catch her breath but it terrified Frances.
'No help '
This time it was Summer as well as their patient who took comfort from Zac's confident tone. 'The ropes just needed to take up the extra weight. You're safe. There's a great big fire engine up on the road that's not going anywhere and the car is very firmly attached to it. Relax, sweetheart.'
There it was again. That cheeky endearment. Summer wouldn't want to admit that skip of her heart when it seemed like the car was beginning to roll further down the cliff. She most definitely wouldn't want to admit that warm feeling the use of the endearment created. How powerful could a single word be? It could make you think that someone genuinely cared about you.
That you were, indeed, safe.
Suddenly, it was easy to focus completely on the job she needed to do. Summer unhooked the stethoscope from around her neck and fitted it into her ears.
'Take a deep breath for me, Frances.'