Flight doctor Christina Farrelly and G.P. Joe Barrett have been in love for two years —part-time. Joe spends a week every month at the Crocodile Creek Medical Center, where Christina works. He lives for their time together, and can't give her more than that. But Christina wants all of Joe—or nothing.
Christina finds it hard to tell the big, gorgeous doctor it's over. It's only after she does, that he discovers he can't live without her—and she discovers she is pregnant. His fight to keep her has only just begun.
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About the Author
Lilian Darcy has written almost fifty book for Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance and Sweet Romance (known in the U.S. as Prescription Romance and Silhouette Romance.) Her first romance for Silhouette appeared on the Waldenbooks Series Romance Bestsellers list, and she hopes that readers go on responding to all her books with the same enthusiasm.
People often ask her how she manages to come up with ideas, but for Lilian the problem lies in trying to keep up with the flow. She has plots and characters clamouring in her head all the time, and sometimes struggles to decide whose story she wants to tell next.
Lilian believes that a fulfilling personal life helps her enormously in writing romance. Happily married with four gorgeous children, she sinks into bed at the end of each day exhausted but very content. She has begun to feel that there s no point in listing hobbies in her biography, as she rarely has time for any of them. If she did, they would include gardening, quilting, skiing, gourmet cooking, hiking and drawing.
Her goal is to write books that readers turn to with a sense of anticipation, followed by that Ahh... feeling that happens when you sink into a comfortable spot - a squishy couch, or a picnic blanket beneath a tree - and plunge into a world that you know is going to satisfy you, refresh you and leave you with a smile on your face, and perhaps the trace of a tear or two as well.
She is heartily sick of negative journalistic cliches about romance novels, and believes that most articles written on the subject are grossly unfair to readers. Is reading romance a form of escapism? Definitely! she says. Just like playing or watching sport, learning a craft, listening to music, walking on the beach, and practically every other activity that human beings enjoy in their spare time.
One of her as yet unfilled ambitions is to come across a complete stranger, on a train or in a park, perhaps, lost in the middle of a Lilian Darcy novel as she avidly turns the pages. When it happens, I ll probably give a huge shriek of excitement and render her breathless and terrified by hugging her on the spot.
Read an Excerpt
DR CHRISTINA FARRELLY had only one significant item left on her 'to do' list for today. She hadn't written it down. It wasn't something she was likely to overlook.
Driving to the airport to pick him up in the sweet, warm darkness of a typical North Queensland autumn night, she felt sick about it.
Sick to her stomach.
She didn't want to do this.
And even this early in the piece it wasn't working out according to plan, anyhow.
His flight from Cairns had been delayed and he was getting in six hours late, which meant that the almost bearable scenario of having a private late-afternoon coffee at her place while they talked about it had morphed into the utterly non-bearable scenario of delivering him direct to the doctors' residence at eleven o'clock on a Sunday night, gabbling at him, "Dumping you, sorry, but fixed you up a room here," and laying rubber all the way down the hospital driveway as she screeched her car off into the night.
She really could not do Dump Joe that way.
Not when she didn't want to end their relationship at all. Maybe the flight delay was an acceptable reason to put it off.
The airport was only a few kilometres from her house, an old-fashioned Queenslander a couple of streets back from the commercial heart of Crocodile Creek, which she'd inherited from her grandmother several years ago. The big creek itself flowed in a slow, lazy curve between the town and the airport, while a smaller tributary curved with equal laziness between the airport and the hospital before joining forces with Crocodile Creek just a hundred metres before it spilled into the ocean.
The main road crossed Crocodile Creek's wide stream-bed over a bridge that was slated to be replaced very soon. Construction on the new one, a hundred metres upstream, had recently begun. Christina would be sad to see the old bridge go, but, then, maybe she had a tendency to hold onto things...hopes...relationships...for longer than she should.
Yes, no excuses, no delaying tactics, just do it.
To get to the modest-sized passenger terminal, she had to skirt around the emergency services headquarters and the runway for fixed-wing aircraft, with its rows of nighttime guidance lights staring at her balefully the entire way.
The whole place was close to deserted at this hour. Joe's flight would have been the last one in tonight. She saw it still taxiing towards the terminal, bringing Joe ever closer to an emotional crisis — or merely an incomprehensible, irritating disappointment? — that he had no inkling of as yet.
Other people did have an inkling. Mike Poulos had guessed that something was wrong last week when he and Christina had flown together in the Remote Rescue chopper to bring in a heart-attack patient from an isolated location, but he wouldn't have said much to anyone else, both because he was a decent, non-gossipy kind of guy and because — well — he had much better things to think about right now.
He and Emily Morgan, after knowing each other for a good eighteen months without a ripple to ruffle the surface, had suddenly discovered they were madly, ocean-churn-ingly in love, marriage-mindedly in love.
And, oh, lord, she shouldn't think about it in such a bitchy way, she liked both of them a lot, but...how come everyone else could connect the dots and come up with the obvious answer when Joe Barrett wouldn't even admit to the existence of dots in the first place?
Turning into the car park, Christina felt the tears starting and blinked them back. Shoot, if she was crying about this now, before she'd even done it, said it — how bad was the actual conversation going to be?
And how bad was it going to be when the news had travelled all around the hospital?
Or had it done so already?
In a foolish attempt to distance herself from the reality of what she was doing, she'd involved Brian Simmons in his role as hospital administrator, asking him to organise the room for Joe at the doctors' residence. This was the original bush nursing hospital, over a hundred years old, and it was situated on the grounds of the current, much more modern set of hospital buildings that provided the nexus for Crocodile Creek's outback air medical service.
Most of the single doctors lived there, but Christina never had, since she had her grandmother's house, with its lush jungle of garden screening the cool privacy of a wraparound veranda, its antique-filled rooms, its peace and tranquillity. And because she had a spare room in that house, and because Joe was only in Crocodile Creek for one week in four, he'd become her part-time boarder two years ago.
He hadn't stayed in that limited role for very long. The doctors'residence was a noisy, welcoming and very pleasant place, and Christina dropped in there quite often. She liked most of the medical staff currently living there, but she didn't want them asking questions behind her back, worrying about her, telling each other that they didn't understand what was going on because Christina and Joe had always seemed so good together.
They would do and say all of that, of course.
There was only one factor that might dilute it a little. The past couple of weeks at Crocodile Creek had been pretty dramatic ones, starting with Simon-the-cardiologist and Kirsty-the-intern sneaking off into the sunset together, followed by the far more serious discovery of a critically ill newborn left for dead after an outback rodeo, and a head-on collision in the outlying settlement of Wygera which had left four young aboriginal kids dead and others still hospitalised down south.
"People do have other things to think about, Christina Farrelly," she scolded herself, punctuating the statement with a wrenching pull on the handbrake of the car.
The newborn was doing well now. He had a mother, Megan Cooper, who'd almost died herself following serious post-partum complications on top of the traumatic belief that her baby had been born dead. Over the past few days, Megan had slowly begun to recover. And he had a name.
He didn't yet have a known father — Megan wasn't saying anything on that subject — or grandparents who'd been told of his existence. Meanwhile, the community at Wygera would take months to find its feet again...
Yes, everyone in Crocodile Creek most definitely had other things to think about.
But right now all Christina could think about was that mental 'to do' list, and the item right at the top of it.
When she reached the arrivals area of the almost-empty terminal, passengers were just starting to come through the gate. There were no fancy jetways at this airport. Joe would be walking across the open tarmac with the other tired arrivals, while the luggage-cart swung in an arc around them through the humid press of diesel fumes, beating them to the baggage claim area by a scant minute.
With the flight only half-full, Christina had no trouble spotting him. He stood half a head above the tallest of the other passengers, and he was broader and stronger, with darker skin, a wider smile... He had always seemed to her to have so much more than anyone else she'd ever met.
More strategies for keeping their part-time relationship in exactly the place he wanted it.
Which had slowly and inexorably become a place she just couldn't bear for it to stay.
Dump Joe. "Hi," she said, her voice wobbly. "Tink.'He buried his face in her neck, inhaling the scent of her hair in open appreciation. "Oh, Tink!" He was the only person who ever called her Tink. Tunk, really, with his strong New Zealand accent. "Hell, I've missed you.
Mmm, you smell so good!" And he was the only person who ever made her feel this way when he hugged her.
Weak with need.
Where she belonged.
And, tonight, utterly miserable.
She felt his mouth press hard against her hair, her cheekbone, the corners of her lips. Hungry kisses, but they promised nothing.
"I am wiped!'he said. "Seven hours in the transit lounge in Cairns."
"Do you have a bag?" 'Nope. Everything's here.'He patted the heavily packed overnight bag that swung on his shoulder. Beneath the white band of his T-shirt sleeve, the smooth skin of his upper arm bulged with muscle, and the thin, braided shape of his blue-black tattoo was visible. It looked like a bracelet, and made a clearer statement about his part-Maori ancestry than did the honey colour of his skin. "Let's go. Are you on flight duty tomorrow?"
"Yes, I'm due back here at seven, for a clinic run." On the opposite side of the runway, really, but it counted as the same place.
"And I'm rostered on from eight. Still, we can grab a bit of time tonight, eh?'His dark eyes flicked down at her, with that familiar sense of a shared secret in their depths, and the total confidence that she wanted exactly what he did. Her body stirred and her heart fell.
"Yes, we need some time." The words were neutral. Far too neutral. He should have noticed. Or was he simply too tired to hear them as significant?
She really, really had not wanted to have to do it like this. For his sake, or for hers. They would have to talk at her place. She wasn't going to say everything here in the airport car park, or with the car engine idling outside the doctors' residence.
As they drove past the hospital, he commented, "Quite a few lights on there tonight, in the house and in the main building."
"We've had a busy couple of weeks." She filled in some of the details. The personal as well as the medical.
There was Cal's engagement to Dr Gina Lopez, the American cardiologist he'd known in Townsville five years ago, and who'd turned out to have given birth to his son, CJ, now four years old. There were Kirsty and Simon, Emily and Mike, the car accident at the Wygera settlement, and darling, heroic baby Jackson and his mother.
"He has von Willebrand's disease, on top of everything else, brave little sweetheart," she finished. The rare blood disorder had been diagnosed after Dr Lopez had been alerted by the unusual amount of bleeding from the baby's cord stump. It was treatable and shouldn't cause ongoing problems now that they knew about it.
"So the mother has it, too?" Joe asked. "No, she doesn't, and neither do the mother's parents — although her dad's health is pretty iffy in other areas, apparently — which means the carrier must be the father. But so far Megan isn't telling us who or where he is. Dr Wetherby's father had von Willebrand's, apparently, but if there's a family connection he knows about, he's not saying. It could be a coincidence."
"Whew!" 'That pretty much sums it up."
She hated having so much news to dump...dump...on him all in one big, stodgy mass. It always happened, even when events in Crocodile Creek weren't nearly as fast-moving as they'd been this time around. Joe spent three weeks out of four at home in New Zealand.
Or possibly, for all she knew, on the far side of a worm-hole leading to a distant galaxy.
No, OK, that was a slight exaggeration.
Over the two years they'd been a part-time couple, he had let slip a few salient facts. He lived in Auckland. He'd done his medical degree at Auckland University. He worked in a group general practice. He wasn't married. (But he could be lying. Was he lying? Would she know?) He had a mother, a younger half-sister, a stepdad.
But he made it painfully clear how much he hated talking about his life at home. He never phoned her from New Zealand. He'd given her both his home and work numbers there 'for an emergency' but the handful of times she'd eagerly dialled those, early on in their relationship, he'd again made it clear that the calls weren't wanted.
He didn't do it nastily. Christina wasn't convinced he had a nasty bone in his body.
He did it with an upbeat, warm-voiced energy. "Listen, Tink, I can't talk, OK?'Didn't suggest a better time. Didn't phone her back. Didn't mention the phone calls the next time she saw him.