Tempted by the hospital heartbreaker!
Nurse Isla McKenna is warned about Dr. Harry Gardiner the moment she enters the London Victoria's emergency department. He's a commitment-shy playboyand Isla has been betrayed too often to play with fire!
But there is more to this "bad boy" than meets the eye, and when Harry asks for help facing a family wedding, Isla can't refuse. Even if it means fighting the chemistry between them! Except their weekend together proves the ultimate temptation, leaving them both dangerously wanting much more
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Isla took a deep breath outside the staff-room door. Today was her second day at the emergency department of the London Victoria Hospital, and she was still finding her place in the team. She'd liked the colleagues she'd met yesterday, and hopefully today would go just as wellwith new people who didn't know her past and wouldn't judge her. She pushed the door open, then smiled at the nurse who was checking the roster on the pinboard. 'Morning, Lorraine.'
'Morning, Isla. You're on cubicles with Josie and Harry the Heartbreaker this morning,' Lorraine said.
'Harry the Heartbreaker?' Isla asked.
Lorraine wrinkled her nose. 'I guess that's a bit of a mean nicknameHarry's a good doctor and he's great with patients. He listens to them and gives them a chance to talk.'
'So he's very charming, but he's a bit careless with women?' Isla knew the type. Only too well.
'Harry dates a lot,' Lorraine said. 'He doesn't lead his girlfriends on, exactly, but hardly anyone makes it past a third date with him.'
And lots of women saw him as a challenge and tried to be the exception to his rule, Isla guessed. 'Uh-huh,' she said. She certainly wouldn't be one of them. After what had happened with Stewart, she had no intention of dating anyone ever again. She was better off on her own.
'OK, so he'd be a nightmare to date,' Lorraine said with a wry smile, 'but he's a good colleague. I'm sure you'll get on well with him.'
So professionally their relationship would be just fine; but it would be safer to keep Harry the Heartbreaker at a distance on a personal level. Isla appreciated the heads-up. 'Everyone else in the department has been lovely so far,' she said, smiling back. 'I'm sure it will be fine.'
Though she hadn't been prepared for quite how gorgeous Harry the Heartbreaker was when she actually saw him. The expression 'tall, dark and handsome' didn't even begin to do him justice. He would've been perfectly cast as one of the brooding heroes of a television costume drama, with dark curly hair that was a little too long and flopped over his forehead, dark eyes, a strong jaw and the most sensual mouth she'd ever seen. On horseback, wearing a white shirt, breeches and tailcoat, he'd be irresistible.
Harry the Heart-throb.
Harry the Heartbreaker, she reminded herself.
Luckily Josie had already triaged the first patient and was ready to assist Harry, which meant that Isla had enough time to compose herself and see the next patient on the list.
Harry was a colleague and that was all. Isla had no intention of getting involved with anyone again, no matter how gorgeous the man looked. Stewart had destroyed her trust completely, and that wasn't something she'd be able to put behind her easily.
Harry finished writing up his notes and walked into the corridor to call the next patient through. He knew that Josie had gone to triage her next patient, so he'd be working with the newest member of the team, Isla McKenna. He'd been on leave yesterday when she'd started at the London Victoria and knew nothing about her, other than that she was a senior nurse.
He eyed the nurse in the corridor with interest. Even without the double giveaways of her name and her accent, he would've guessed that Isla McKenna was a Scot. She had that fine porcelain skin, a dusting of freckles across her nose, sharp blue eyes and, beneath her white nurse's cap, dark red hair that he'd just bet looked amazing in the sunlight. Pure Celt. It was a long time since he'd found someone so instantly attractive. Not that he was going to act on it. For all he knew, she could already be involved with someone; the lack of a ring on her left hand meant nothing. 'Isla McKenna, I presume?' he asked.
'Harry Gardiner. Nice to meet you. How are you settling in to the ward?' he asked as they walked down to the cubicles together.
'Fine, thanks. The team seems very nice.'
'They're a good bunch,' he said. 'So where were you before you moved here?'
'Scotland,' she said, her face suddenly shuttering.
Clearly she thought he was prying and she'd given him as vague an answer as she could without being openly rude. 'Uh-huh,' he said, lightly. 'Just making polite conversationas you would with any new colleague.'
She blushed, and her skin clashed spectacularly with her hair. 'Sorry. I didn't mean to be rude,' she muttered.
'Then let's pretend we've never spoken and start again.' He held out his hand. 'Harry Gardiner, special reg. Nice to meet you, and welcome to the London Victoria.'
'Isla McKenna, sister. Thank you, and nice to meet you, too,' she said.
Her handshake was firm, and Harry was surprised to discover that his skin actually tingled where it touched hers.
He normally tried not to date colleagues within his own department. It made things less complicated if his date turned out to have greater expectations than he wanted to fulfilwhich they usually did. And instant attraction to the newest member of their team definitely wasn't a good idea.
'So who's next?' he asked. Hopefully focussing on work would get his common sense back to where it should befirmly in control of his libido.
'Arthur Kemp, aged seventy-three, suspected stroke,' Isla said, filling him in. 'The paramedics did a FAST assessment' the Face Arm Speech Test was used in cases of suspected stroke to check whether the patient's face seemed to fall on one side or if they could smile, whether they could hold both arms above their head, or if their speech was slurred 'and they gave him some aspirin on the way here. I've done an initial assessment.'
'ROSIER?' Harry asked. Recognition of Stroke in the Emergency Room was a standard protocol.
She nodded. 'His score pretty much confirms it's a stroke. I checked ABCD2 as well, and the good news is that his score is nil on the Dhe's not diabetic. His blood sugar is fine.'
Harry picked up immediately what she was telling himthere was only one section of the test with a nil score. 'So the rest of it's a full house?'
'I'm afraid so,' she said. 'He's over sixty, he has high blood pressure and residual weakness on his left side, and the incident happened over an hour ago now.'
'Which puts him at higher risk of having a second stroke in the next two days,' Harry said. 'OK. Does he live on his own, or is he in any kind of residential care?'
'He has a flat where there's a warden on duty three days a week, and a care team comes in three times a day to sort out his meals and medication,' Isla told him. 'They're the ones who called the ambulance for him this morning.'
'So if he did have a second stroke and the warden wasn't on duty or it happened between the care team's visits, the chances are he wouldn't be found for a few hours, or maybe not even overnight.' Harry wrinkled his nose. 'I'm really not happy with that. I think we need to admit him to the acute unit for the next couple of days, so we can keep an eye on him.'
'I agree with you. His speech is a little bit slurred and I'm not happy about his ability to swallow,' Isla added. 'He said he was thirsty and I gave him a couple of sips of water, but I'd recommend putting him on a drip to prevent dehydration, and keep him nil by mouth for the next two or three hours. Nobody's going to be able to sit with him while he drinks and then for a few minutes afterwards to make sure he's OKthere just won't be the time.'
'Good points, and noted.'
Mr Kemp was sitting on a bed, waiting to be seen.
Isla introduced him quickly. 'Mr Kemp, this is Dr Gardiner.'
'Everyone calls me Harry,' Harry said with a smile. 'So can you tell me about what happened this morning, Mr Kemp?'
'I had a bit of a headache, then I tripped and fell and I couldn't get up again,' Mr Kemp said. 'My carer found me when she came in to give me my tablets and my breakfast.'
Isla noticed that Harry sat on the chair and held the old man's hand, encouraging him to talk. He was kind and waited for an answer, rather than rushing the patient or pressuring him to stop rambling and hurry up. Lorraine had been spot on about his skills as a doctor, she thought. 'Can you remember, either before or after you fell, did you black out at all?' Harry asked. 'Or did you hit your head?'
Arthur looked confused. 'I'm not sure. I don't think I blacked out and I don't remember hitting my head. It's hard to say.' He grimaced. 'Sorry, Doctor. I'm not much use. My daughter's husband says I'm an old fool.'
So there were family tensions, too. The chances were, if they suggested that he went to stay with his family for a few days, the answer would be noeven if they had the room to let the old man stay. 'Don't worry, it's fine,' Harry reassured him. 'I'm just going to do a couple of checks now to see how you're doing. Is that OK?'
'Yes, Doctor. And I'm sorry I'm such a nuisance.'
Either the old man was used to being made to feel as if he was a problem, or he was habitually anxious. Or maybe a bit of both, Harry thought. He checked Mr Kemp's visual fields and encouraged him to raise his arms; the residual weakness on Mr Kemp's left side that Isla had mentioned early was very clear. And there was a walking frame next to the bed, he noticed. 'Do you normally walk with a frame?'
'Yes, though I hate the wretched thing.' Arthur grimaced. 'It always trips me up. It did that this morning. That's why I fell. Useless thing.'
Harry guessed that Mr Kemp did what a lot of elderly people did with a walking framehe lifted it and carried it a couple of centimetres above the ground, rather than leaving the feet on the floor and pushing it along and letting it support him. Maybe he could arrange some support to help the old man use the frame properly, so it helped him rather than hindered him.
'Can you see if you can walk a little bit with me?' he asked.
He helped Mr Kemp to his feet, then walked into the corridor with him, encouraged him to turn round and then walk back to the cubicle. Harry noticed that his patient was shuffling. He was also leaning slightly to the leftthe same as when he was sitting upand leaning back slightly when he walked. Harry would need to put that on Mr Kemp's notes to be passed on to any carers, so they could help guide him with a hand resting just behind his back, and stop him as soon as he started shuffling and encourage him to take bigger steps.
Once Mr Kemp was seated safely again, Harry said, 'I'm going to send you for an MRI scan, because you had a headache and I want to rule out anything nasty, but I think Sister McKenna here is right and you've had a small stroke.'
'A stroke?' Arthur looked as if he couldn't quite take it in. 'How could I have had a stroke?'
'The most likely cause is a blood clot that stopped the blood supply to your brain for a little while,' Harry explained. 'It should be cleared by now because you're able to walk and talk and move your arms, but I'm going to admit you to the acute medical unit so we can keep an eye on you for a day or two.'
He decided not to tell Mr Kemp that his risk of a second stroke was higher over the next day or two; there was no point in worrying the poor man sick. Though his family would definitely need to know. 'Has anyone been in touch with your family?'
'Sharon, my carershe should have rung my daughter, but Becky'll be at work and won't be able to come right away.' He grimaced. 'I feel bad about taking her away from her job. Her work is so important.'
'And I bet she'll think her dad is just as important as her job,' Isla said reassuringly.
'Too right,' Harry said. Even though he didn't quite feel that about his own father. Then again, Bertie Gardiner was more than capable of looking after himselfthat, or his wife-to-be Trixie, who was a couple of years younger than Harry, could look out for him.
He shook himself. Not now. He wasn't going to think about the upcoming wedding. Or the fact that his father was still trying to talk him into being his best man, and Harry had done that job twice alreadydid he really need to do it all over again for his father's seventh wedding? 'We'll have had your scan done by the time your daughter comes to see you,' Harry said, 'and we'll be able to give her a better idea of your treatment plan.'
'Treatment?' Mr Kemp asked.
'The stroke has affected your left side, so you'll need a little bit of help from a physiotherapist to get you back to how you were before the stroke,' Harry said. 'I'm also going to write you up for some medication which you can take after your scan.'
'Is there anything you'd like to ask us?' Isla asked.
'Well, I'd really like a nice cup of tea,' Mr Kemp said wistfully. 'If it wouldn't be too much trouble.'
'We can sort that out in a few minutes, after you've had your scan,' Isla said. 'At the moment you're finding it hard to swallow and I don't want you to choke or burn yourself on a hot drink, but we'll try again in half an hour and you might be able to swallow better by then. And I'll make sure you get your cup of tea, even if I have to make it myself.'
'Seconded,' Harry said, 'though I'll admit my tea isn't the best and you'd be better off with coffee if I'm the one who ends up making it.' He smiled at the old man. 'We'll get things sorted out and make sure your daughter finds you.' He shook the old man's hand and stood up. 'Try not to worry. We'll make sure you get looked after properly.'
'I'll be back with you in a second, Mr Kemp,' Isla said, and followed Harry out of the cubicles.
'Can you organise a scan and then transfer him to the acute unit?' he asked quietly when they were outside the cubicle.
She smiled at him. 'Sure, no problem.'
Her smile transformed her face completely. Harry felt the lick of desire deep inside his gut and had to remind himself that his new colleague might be gorgeous, but she was also off limits. 'Thanks,' he said. 'I'll write everything up.'