From practice nurse to doctor's bride!
Since GP Ross Mackenzie learned that his wedding had been cancelled the devastatingly handsome doctor's heart has been well and truly guarded. However, Ross cannot ignore the sparks that flicker between him and practice nurse Gemma Craven--sparks that refuse to diminish...
Shy Gemma has learned to hide the scars on her body--especially from powerfully attractive men like Ross. But gradually Ross's compassion wins the vulnerable nurse's trust, and when his lips touch hers Gemma feels beautiful for the first time. Before long Ross realises that it is Gemma he wants as his bride...and it seems there just might be a wedding in Dalverston after all!
About the Author
Jennifer Taylor has been writing Mills & Boon novels for some time, but discovered Medical Romance books relatively recently. Having worked in scientific research, she was so captivated by these heart-warming stories that she immediately set out to write them herself. Jennifer’s hobbies include reading and travelling. She lives in northwest England. Visit Jennifer's blog at jennifertaylorauthor.wordpress.com
Read an Excerpt
Today should have been his wedding day.
Ross Mackenzie sighed as he stared out of the bedroom window. Dawn was starting to break now, the first pale streaks of wintry light sliding over the top of the surrounding hills. He hadn't slept. He'd lain awake all night long, working out the best way to proceed. There were a lot of things he needed to do that morning. First and foremost on the list he would have to tell his mother that the wedding wouldn't be taking place. He wasn't looking forward to breaking the news to her because she was bound to be upset, but he would try to do it as gently as possible.
Next he would have to inform all the guests that the wedding had been called off. Some were travelling quite a distance so he would have to phone them as early as possible. Then there was the vicarhe would need to be informed, and the cars and the flowers would have to be cancelled, as well as the reception. The list seemed endless but Ross knew that he would work his way through it in his usual meticulous fashion. If he was honest, it wasn't the practicalities that worried him, but how he felt. Surely he should feel more than this sense of relief that Heather had decided not to marry him?
He swung round, impatient with himself. He should be glad that he wasn't standing here, feeling as though the world had caved in around him! Walking through to the en suite bathroom, he turned on the shower. Once he was dressed, he would set everything in motion. Granted, it would cause a stir once word got out and he wasn't looking forward to being the focus of so much gossip. However, he wasn't going to let it deter him. He would deal with what had happened the same way he dealt with everything elsecalmly and rationally.
He grimaced as he stepped under the hot water because he knew that his reaction wasn't normal. He was merely burying his feelings so he didn't have to face up to them. Losing Heather should have been the worst thing that had ever happened to him, but he couldn't pretend that he felt devastated by her decision. Thinking back, perhaps he'd sensed for a while that there'd been something missing from their relationship, but he had dismissed his fears as a last-minute attack of nerves. Now he was glad that Heather had saved them both from making a terrible mistake, although it was going to be difficult to convince everyone else that was how he felt.
His friends and family would think he was putting on a brave face if he told them the truth and that would make the situation worse. He was already in line for a lot of well-meaning sympathy and he didn't intend to portray himself as the victim when he was sure that Heather had done the right thing. It might be easier if he didn't say too much and simply let people believe what they liked.
Ross felt a little easier once he had decided how to proceed. As soon as he was dressed, he went downstairs and made himself a pot of coffee. He telephoned his mother while it was brewing, but there was no reply. She'd told him that she was going to have her hair done that morning and he could only assume that she wasn't back yet.
He phoned the vicar instead and explained what had happened, politely refusing the man's well-meaning offer of counselling. There was no danger of him falling apart that just wasn't his way. He would cope perfectly well with what had happened so long as the people around him let him do it his way. He knew what he wanted from life and he refused to let this setback alter his plans. He had worked too hard to prove himself to give up his dreams now.
Fired up by the same determination that had driven him all his adult life, Ross carried on making calls. He had just finished speaking to the florist when the doorbell rang and he went to answer it, unsurprised when he found Ben Nicholls, his best man, on the step. Ben grinned as he followed him inside.
'So how do you feel this morning? Ready to face your fate, I hope.'
Ross shrugged as he headed back to the kitchen and poured Ben a cup of coffee. 'There's been a change of plans. The wedding has been called off.'
'Oh, ha-ha, very funny. If you think I'm going to fall for that, you can think again.' Ben plonked himself on a chair and gulped down a mouthful of coffee. 'Oh boy, I needed that! Would you believe that I got called into work last night? Some idiot on a motorbike decided to play chase with a police car and hit a bollard in the process. He was in a right mess, I can tell you.'
Ross didn't interrupt as Ben regaled him with the tale of the injured motorcyclist. They often exchanged stories about their working lives. As a GP in a busy town-centre practice, Ross was used to dealing with all kinds of medical matters ranging from the mundane to the life-threatening. He enjoyed the orderliness of general practice work, though, and wouldn't have traded it for the adrenaline rush that Ben got from working in the emergency department at the local hospital.
He waited until Ben ran out of steam then returned the conversation to the subject uppermost on his mind. 'Actually, I wasn't joking. Heather sent me a letter last night to say that she'd changed her mind. The wedding has been called off.'
'You're not serious, are you?' Ben demanded, gaping at him.
''Fraid so.' Ross gave his friend a tight smile, hoping the news wouldn't trigger a sudden outpouring of sympathy. He neither deserved nor wanted to be on the receiving end, quite frankly. 'It means that I'm going to need your help to sort things out.'
'Of course. It goes without saying that I'll do anything I can,' Ben said quickly. He sat up and stared at Ross. 'Did Heather say why she'd changed her mind? I mean, there isn't someone else involved, is there ?'
Ben tailed off, obviously unsure what to say now that he had voiced the question, and Ross sighed. He suspected it was a question he would have to get used to answering in the coming days.
'Not as far as I'm aware. Heather simply wrote that she'd realised it would be a mistake if we got married.'
And that was it? You didn't go to see her and talk it all through?'
'No. She'd made her position perfectly clear in her letter.'
It was obvious that Ben thought he'd been wrong to have left it there. Ross frowned, wondering if he should have gone to see Heather and pressed her for an explanation. Had she met someone else, as Ben had suggested, someone she loved more than him?
He tested out that theory, unsure what his reaction would be if it proved to be true, but he felt very little. He certainly didn't feel jealous at the thought of her seeing another man and that was something else he needed to think about later. If he didn't feel jealous or even very upset then why had he asked Heather to marry him in the first place? Because she had ticked all the right boxes and fitted his ideal of the perfect wife?
It was alarming to realise how calculating he'd been. Ross cleared his throat, not sure that he liked discovering something so negative about himself. 'Anyhow, I've phoned the vicar and told him. I've also been on to the florist and cancelled the flowers. I still need to contact the car-hire firm and the hotel where the reception was being held. Fortunately, we decided not to go away on honeymoon until the spring, so that's one less job to deal with. But I did book the bridal suite, if you remember, so that will need to be cancelled too.'
'I can do all that for you,' Ben offered immediately.
'Thanks.' Ross gave him the phone numbers then found the guest list that Heather had tacked to the bulletin board next to the fridge. 'I need to go and see my mother, and let her know what's happened, so if you could make a start on phoning the guests as well, I'd be really grateful.'
'No problemo.' Ben took the list from him, grimacing when he saw the number of people who had been invited. 'I don't imagine we'll be able to get hold of everyone before they set off, so d'you want me to go to the church and meet them there?'
'I'm not sure. It might be better coming from me.' He shrugged when Ben looked at him in surprise. 'Some of those people are travelling quite a distance and it seems a bit rich to turn them away at the door. I'd feel better if I did it myself.'
'Well, if you're sure you're up to it '
'It isn't a problem,' Ross assured him briskly, not wanting to admit how indifferent he felt about the idea. This should have been his worst nightmare, yet he felt unmoved by the prospect of cancelling all the arrangements. How odd.
Once again he shied away from examining his feelings too deeply. Standing up, he reached for his car keys. 'I'll leave it with you, then. I'll get over to Mum's and break the news to her before the grapevine gets to work. Give me a call if you have any problems. I've got my phone with me.'
'Will do. And, Ross, I'm really sorry about what's happened.'
'Thanks. Although it's probably better that it happened now rather than later,' Ross said bluntly, heading for the door.
He left the house and got into his car. It was the second week of December and the weather was very cold. The forecast had predicted a dry sunny dayperfect for a wedding at this time of year. As he drove through the town, Ross tried to imagine how the day might have gone, but it was impossible to picture it. It was as though all the months of preparation had never happened, as though there never had been a wedding about to take place that day, his wedding.
In a sudden rush of insight he realised that he had merely gone through the motions, done what had been expected of him, but he had never connected emotionally with the event. Getting married had been just another step on his life plan, another box that had needed ticking. Was it any wonder that Heather had changed her mind about marrying him?
There was an envelope lying on the mat when Gemma Craven went downstairs on Saturday morning. She frowned as she picked it up. The post usually didn't arrive until lunchtime, so it was a surprise to see it lying there at this hour of the day.
Her frown deepened when she turned the envelope over and discovered that there was no stamp or address on it, just her name. Ripping open the flap, she took out the single sheet of paper it contained, feeling her heart leap into her throat as she tried to make sense of what it said. It was from Heather, telling her that the wedding had been called off.
Gemma sank down onto the stairs in a state of shock. Was it true? Had Heather really decided not to marry Ross? She couldn't imagine why her friend would have done such a thing, but there was no doubt that the signature on the bottom of the letter was Heather's. What on earth had happened to make Heather do such a thing?
Scrambling to her feet, she hurried to the phone and dialled Heather's home number, but there was no answer even though she let it ring a dozen times. She tried her friend's mobile phone next but the call went straight through to voice mail. She left a brief message, letting Heather know she was worried about her and asking her to call back, and hung up. She wasn't sure what she should do now. The arrangement had been that she would go round to Heather's home to help her get ready. As the chief and only bridesmaid, Gemma's job was to attend to the bride, but if there was no wedding then her services were no longer needed. However, she couldn't sit at home, wondering what had happened. She had to find out what had gone on, and why Heather had decided not to marry Ross.
Gemma's heart lurched as a picture of Ross Mackenzie suddenly appeared in her mind's eye. The saying about tall, dark and handsome could have been coined for him. At a little over six feet in height, Ross was tall enough to stand out in a crowd and that was before you added in all the rest. With his black hair and cobalt-blue eyes, he drew admiring glances wherever he went. His features were both attractive and very masculinea strong chin, chiselled lips, a straight nose. He played tennis in the summer and skied in the winter and his body definitely bore testament to the benefits of all that exercise. His whole bearing was that of a man in command of his life. Ross knew what he wanted and he got it, too. He'd wanted Heather to be his wife so what had gone wrong?
Gemma ran back upstairs to her bedroom. Scooping up the armful of clean clothes she'd left over the back of a chair the night before, she hurried into the bathroom. She couldn't explain the urgency she felt to see Heather. All she knew was that she had to make her friend understand what a mistake she was making. Most women would give their right arm to marry Ross, yet Heather had thrown away her chance of happiness.
Ten minutes later Gemma left the house, shivering as the chill of a frosty December morning hit her. She hurried to her car, groaning when she discovered the windscreen was covered with ice. She wasted another couple of minutes clearing it away and her fingers were frozen solid by then, the tips of them turning pink with cold.
She slid into the driving seat, cranking up the heater to its highest setting, not that there was much hope of any warmth just yet. Still, at least it provided her with the illusion that she might soon start to defrost, although maybe the chill she felt didn't stem solely from the weather. It was the thought of how upset Ross must be that was making her feel so cold. He must be devastated completely devastated!
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