The Artisan Heart

The Artisan Heart

by Dean Mayes


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Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant paediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organized by Bernadette. When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia’s southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind. A chance encounter with a precocious and deaf young girl introduces Hayden to Isabelle Sampi, a struggling artisan baker. While single-handedly raising her daughter, and trying to resurrect a bakery, Isabelle has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his own fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own. As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781771681421
Publisher: Central Avenue Publishing
Publication date: 09/01/2018
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

The author of three novels and an Intensive Care Nurse, Dean Mayes returns to his romantic roots with a heartwarming story about starting over and rediscovering love, set in the former gold mining town of Walhalla, Australia, where he spent much of his own childhood.

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High on the emergency-department wall, a large digital clock flashed 6:00 p.m. The inner-city children's hospital was a beehive of activity this evening, with people rushing to and fro, the noise of conversation and instruction competing with the mechanised sounds of medical monitors. Each of the eleven cubicles, arranged in a herringbone formation around a central, glass-partitioned station dubbed the fishbowl, was occupied by ailing children and their guardians. Nursing and medical staff passed in and out, undertaking initial examinations, recording observations, performing procedures. Other employees moved between the fishbowl and the cubicles, armed with request forms for radiology, pathology, or allied health consultations, or ferrying newly arrived results to the medical team. The activity was frenetic, though not unusual, for this time on a Friday. It was chaos, but it was organised chaos.

A young nurse emerged from behind a curtain where she had just deposited a young couple and their infant baby girl. Her features taut with concern, she began scanning the department, searching. The baby behind her was screaming in her mother's arms, arching her back and splaying her arms out wide. The nurse glanced back to see both mother and father calming her as best they could.

The nurse ground her teeth. "Where is he?"

She caught the attention of one of her colleagues, signalling him with a nod. Though he was in the middle of a phone call, he lifted the receiver away from his ear.

"Have you seen Luschcombe?" she mouthed.

The male nurse shook his head apologetically as he pointed at the handset, indicating he had to return to the call.

She growled, annoyed. Behind her, the distressed parents cradled their child between them as the little girl screamed louder. The nurse looked back as the baby began to froth at the mouth.

"Dammit!" The nurse marched into the fishbowl and stabbed the PA switch.

In a quiet staff tearoom, located away from the department, a solitary figure in navy scrubs reclined in a lounge chair, his long legs resting on a coffee table with his feet hanging over the edge.

His eyes were closed, his chiselled jaw relaxed. A foam coffee cup balanced in his fingers and an open book lay across his chest, nearly obscuring the clipon badge that displayed his credentials: Paediatric Emergency Consultant.

Hayden Luschcombe drifted, having closed out all extraneous sound. His mental relaxation technique was near absolute. In his mind, an echo accompanying a procession of imagery registered as a sort of auditory hallucination.

Don't call me now. Don't call me now.

There was less than half an hour until the end of shift. He'd already handed over his patients to the incoming registrar and he was praying he would make it until knock-off time without being called again.

His solitude was broken, however, by the squeal of feedback over the PA speaker, followed by a tinny female voice that caused him to jump in his seat. The foam cup pitched from his grip.

"Dr. Luschcombe. Priority three in cubicle two. Dr. Luschcombe."

Hayden's eyes snapped opened and he glared at a clock on the wall.

Fifteen minutes.

Groaning, he removed the book from his chest and leaned over the arm of the chair, blinking at the slick of coffee trailing from the upended cup. He snatched up the cup and tossed it into a nearby bin, then scratched his fingers though his tousled, sandy hair and kicked his athletic body forward. He deposited his book, The Craftsman Woodturner, onto the table, where it slid across the array of glossy women's magazines and dropped to the floor, right into the puddle of coffee.

He cursed, lunging for a roll of paper towels and hurriedly mopping up the mess as his name sounded over the intercom once more. He stood, straightened his top, then strode out of the tearoom.

Emerging through a concealed access door into the emergency department, Hayden found himself confronted by the young nurse, who babbled off a procession of clinical information and symptoms concerning the baby in the cubicle.

Though he feigned attention, nodding his head rhythmically, she could tell he registered only a few words of what she was saying.

Arriving at the cubicle, Hayden pulled the curtain aside and acknowledged the parents with a curt nod. His attention dropped to the baby in her mother's arms.

His mind went to work, constructing a clinical picture of what he saw. Though the child was eight weeks, she appeared scrawny, underweight. And although she was crying vigorously, Hayden noted that she shed no tears. There was frothing at the edges of her mouth and with each cry, a projectile of foam shot forward. He was able to pick up the faint smell of vomit on the collar of her jumpsuit. The nurse continued to rattle off a barrage of information. He held up his hand for silence.

Hayden dropped to his knees and reached out to unfurl the mother's hands from around the infant's tiny body. This made the baby writhe more vigorously and brought on a new round of screams, but Hayden ignored it and unbuttoned the front of her jumpsuit.

"When did you last feed her?" His educated voice was professional, but soft.

The distressed mother turned to her husband. "We tried, m-maybe half an hour ago. She seemed hungry enough. But she wasn't taking the nipple. She was just mouthing it and getting frustrated."

Hayden examined the child's belly just as she arched her back. The mother, who was watching Hayden, saw his eyes widen almost imperceptibly.

"What is it?" she probed.

Hayden touched two fingers to the child's abdomen, the action causing visible wave-like contractions to ripple over the child's stomach.

"An olive." A curious smile formed at the edge of his lips.

Both parents stared at him, uncomprehending.

The nurse blinked as a colleague passed by the cubicle and stopped. The portly middle-aged woman, sporting a tight bouffant perm, adjusted a blingy pair of spectacles hanging from a chain. The ID badge clipped to her collar identified her as Magda.

"Should we get bloods?" the younger nurse queried. Magda stepped into the cubicle as Hayden turned on his haunches and spied a pad marked Radiology on a side bench. He snapped his fingers at it.

The young nurse snatched up the request pad and thrust it at him as he plucked a pen from the pocket of his scrubs. Hayden acknowledged the newly-arrived Magda as he scribbled on the pad.

"I want an urgent abdominal ultrasound. Page the surgical registrar and get him down here." He turned back to the parents as he buttoned up the jumpsuit again.

"Your child has what is called pyloric stenosis. It's a stricture where the stomach meets the first part of her bowel. The ultrasound scan will confirm it and she'll need to have an operation to correct it. She will make a full recovery." Rising to his full height, Hayden handed the request form to Magda and swept from the cubicle.

"Arsehole," the younger nurse hissed as she spun on her heel, much to the consternation of her older colleague, who fixed her with a disapproving glare.

Hayden shuffled from a change room, lugging a backpack and struggling with a handful of damp towels. He'd showered and changed into a smart business suit. He deposited the towels into a nearby linen skip, then stopped at a side door and checked his reflection in the glass. With his backpack slung over one shoulder, he appeared as though he'd attempted to put the jacket and backpack on simultaneously. The lavender tie was slung around his neck, its Windsor knot tied but not yet fixed into position. The collar of his shirt was turned up and unbuttoned.

He strode towards an alcove in the corridor beside the ambulance entrance, where he'd left his battered mountain bike tucked behind a portable curtain and a large waste bin. He checked his watch and grimaced as he set about freeing the bike.


The main doors to the emergency department whirred open, revealing a handsome young doctor, roughly Hayden's own age, in shirt and tie and a white coat. Praying that he wouldn't see him, Hayden attempted to duck back out of view, but he faltered with the mountain bike.


Hayden stepped out from the alcove. He kept his expression flat in an effort to hide his impatience.

"You called it again," the registrar beamed. "They're still scanning that child upstairs, but it's clear we're looking at quite a prominent stenosis. We're prepping for theatre right now."

Hayden turned his bike towards the outer doors.

"Did you want to scrub in? I'll be assisting."

Hayden shook his head. "I have to be somewhere. I'm already late."

The registrar frowned, regarding Hayden's mode of transport with a nod. He tilted his head.

"You do realise it is pouring down out there, don't you?"

Hayden whipped his head up. He turned and peered out through the glass doors. Rain was teeming, spattering against the glass of the ambulance bay.

His expression soured.

Cocking a churlish grin, the registrar slapped his hand down on Hayden's shoulder. "Good luck, mate," he chuckled. "I don't envy you."

The registrar punched a green button to the side of the inner doors, which swung open under the power of an audible motor. Before retreating through them and into the clinical area beyond, he turned back and winked at Hayden.

"No doubt about it, Luschcombe, you're an artist–no, an artisan." He pointed at Hayden. "The artisan doctor."

Hayden watched him go and noticed the parents of the baby inside, accompanying their child, who was now lying in a cot being pushed by an orderly. The mother recognised Hayden, and her lips quivered as she mouthed a silent thank you.

Slinging his backpack onto his shoulder, Hayden walked his bike towards the outer doors. The doors parted, revealing the outdoor ambulance bay. The inky sky above was thick with clouds and heavy rain pounded the tarmac.

Magda was sitting at a computer terminal in deep concentration. Looking up from her work, she spied Hayden standing by the exit, forlorn. She reached into a drawer, then stood and went out into the hall to join him.

"I'm going to be so late," Hayden said as she appeared at his side.

Magda opened the small transparent package she held in her hand and removed a disposable plastic poncho, the kind sold at sporting events to protect from weather such as this. She unfurled it, then reached up to guide it over Hayden's suit and backpack. Ensuring the hood covered his head and the exposed areas of his suit jacket, she stood back and inspected her handiwork.

"I look like I'm wearing a giant condom," Hayden observed.

Magda grinned and flicked her head sideways. "You better hurry up. Don't want to upset Bernadette again."

"Too late," Hayden grumbled as he stuffed his trouser bottoms into his socks. He swung a leg over the frame and mounted his bicycle. He hesitated, smoothing down the poncho. "Won't you need this?"

Magda brushed him aside with a wave of her hand. "I'll be all right. Clare can give me a lift to my car. Go on–get out of here."

Hayden pressed his lips together. "Thank you, Magda."

Clutching the handlebars, he pushed down with his foot and gasped as he pedalled out into the deluge.

The ride to the Adelaide Oval only took something in the order of five minutes. It was a very long five minutes.

He powered through the driving rain, weaving a path from the hospital and trying to make use of whatever shelter he could find on the journey to the Oval precinct. He nearly upended his bike as he negotiated the busy thoroughfare of King William Road, not to mention being almost taken out by several cars. They made their displeasure known with angry blasts of their horns.

Passing under the Gothic majesty of St. Peter's Cathedral, Hayden mounted the path opposite and dipped down into the Creswell Gardens in front of the Oval. He stole a glance downward. His socks and trousers were sopping. Thankfully, the rest of him remained dry underneath the plastic.

She's going to kill me.

There was no time to wallow. He steered up onto a spacious boulevard in the shadow of the mighty stadium and scanned ahead, spying a sheltered bike rack that was bathed in the soft orange glow of a street lamp.

Thank God.

Hayden brought the bike in undercover and dismounted, spreading his legs against the cold, uncomfortable squelching of water between them. He shrugged his pack from his shoulders, tore the plastic poncho from his body, and bent down to secure the bike.

Hayden stood and exhaled. His heart was thumping. He could feel the uncomfortable warmth of perspiration in his armpits and across his chest. Splaying his arms out, Hayden took in deep, slow breaths to guide himself towards calm. In the shadow of the stadium, he looked like some bedraggled, suited Christ figure.

Craning his neck, he appraised the Southern Stand towering above him. A bulbous protrusion filled his field of view. It was characterised by a sea of glass that faced the Adelaide skyline across the leafy tree-lined River Torrens. Behind the massive glass window, swirling coloured lights moved within and the muffled thumping of party music was audible.

Slowly, he trudged towards the Riverbank entrance of the Adelaide Oval.

Approaching the entrance to the sumptuous William McGarey Function Room, Hayden checked himself just outside the doors. Having hidden inside a men's bathroom and locked the door, he'd managed to dry his trousers and socks under the heat of a powerful hand dryer. Though confident his efforts had been effective on the surface, each step he took reminded him of the uncomfortable patch of moisture lingering in the seat of his pants.

A sign on a brass podium adjacent to the entrance denoted the nature of the event within: "South Australian Government & Trident Software Systems Annual Awards Dinner."

The glass doors revealed a throng of people enjoying the lavish function inside.

Circular tables were positioned around a large dance floor. On the far side of the cavernous space, a band occupied a raised podium in front of massive windows. They were covering a quick-fire Taylor Swift number to the enthusiasm of the revellers packed onto the dance floor. The auditorium was a sea of attractive people. Expensive business suits. Sumptuous evening gowns. Jewellery that dripped from ears and necks glinted in the lights, creating a dazzling star field.

This was a coterie of the rich and powerful. Corporate heavyweights and government apparatchiks, politicians, staffers, and an assortment of hangers-on, some of whom Hayden recognised, though none of them were people he would normally associate with.

Hayden felt a tightness in his chest, and fingers of anxiety clawed at the back of his neck, making him feel nauseous. He rubbed his hands together, remembering the promise he'd made to his wife–that he would be here for her and he wouldn't be late.

Scratch that second one.

He felt awful for having failed her. But he knew he had to make it up somehow. He'd come this far, even with everything that had conspired against him. He patted down his suit jacket and adjusted his tie, ran his fingers through his hair and went inside, falling in behind a middle-aged couple. He began scanning the auditorium.

A figure appeared at his side and tugged on his sleeve, causing Hayden to turn and come face to face with a meticulously put-together male dressed in a sharp, double-breasted suit and patterned yellow tie. His raven hair, clipped precisely, was slicked back and held in place with what looked like an entire can of hair spray. Hayden picked up the scent of an expensive cologne.

James Fitzner smiled as he handed over one of the two beer glasses he was holding. "You look like you could do with this," he greeted.

Hayden took it and relaxed a little. "Thank you," he said, raising the glass and taking a generous gulp.

James grinned and surveyed the crowd. "Your wife has crafted another winner," he remarked above the background noise. "They're talking about her, Luschcombe. Her reputation is growing fast."

Hayden inspected James's face.

"She will be pleased."

Though Hayden knew James Fitzner through Fitzner's work with his wife, he wasn't sure what the man actually did. He was a political staffer of some sort, influential within state government–a rising star with ministerial ambitions. Despite his reputation as a workaholic, the man seemed more preoccupied with driving around in expensive cars, wearing expensive clothes and working out at expensive clubs.

James Fitzner had facilitated Hayden's wife getting some important events and seemed engaged in helping her advance her career as a go-to event planner among the political and corporate set. Despite this, Hayden couldn't help but think James was a bit full of himself.


Excerpted from "The Artisan Heart"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Dean Mayes.
Excerpted by permission of Central Avenue Marketing Ltd..
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