When her marriage to gorgeous Spanish ER consultant Alessandro Garcia hit the rocks,Christy decided to leave, praying he would come after her, to prove that he saw her asmore than a wife and mother. Only he didn't. And she still doesn't know what to do next.
Their children do, however—and that's to spend Christmas in the rugged English countrysidewith their father! Christy reluctantly returns with them and is roped into working inAlessandro's understaffed ER department—and for the Mountain Rescue Team, to boot. Thiscould be the opportunity they need to mend their marriage…
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"EMERGENCY on its way in, Mr Garcia.'The pretty nurse stuck her head round the office door. "You're needed in Resus."
Alessandro dropped the report on staffing that he was reading and wondered how many times a day he heard that statement. He was always needed in Resus. Sometimes he felt as though he lived in Resus. Particularly at the moment when almost forty per cent of the staff were off with flu.
He strode out of his office, nodded to one of the A and E sisters who hurried past him, looking harassed, and shouldered his way through the double doors into Resus.
Chaos reigned. "She's bleeding from somewhere, we need to find out where." Billy, one of the casualty officers, was trying to direct operations and he looked up with a sigh of relief as Alessandro appeared by the side of the trolley. "Oh, Mr Garcia. Thank goodness. Dr Nicholson is already tied up with that climbing accident and—"
"What's the story?" Alessandro cut him off and Billy sucked in a breath.
"Her husband brought her in by car. She was complaining of abdominal pain all night and he was driving quickly in an attempt to get her here and took the car into the ditch.'Clearly out of his comfort zone, he dragged a hand through his hair, leaving it more untidy than ever. "She's had a bang on her head and her obs suggests that she's bleeding but we don't know where from."
Alessandro took the gloves that a nurse was holding out to him and made a mental note to speak to Billy about the quality of his handover skills at some point in the near future.
"Does "she" have a name?" he enquired softly and Billy coloured.
"Megan. Megan Yates."
Alessandro swiftly dragged on the gloves and turned to the woman who was lying on the trolley, noted her pale, blood-streaked cheeks and the fear in her eyes. "Megan, this must be very frightening for you, but you're in hospital now and we're going to make you comfortable as quickly as we can." He lifted his gaze to Billy. "Bleep the on-call gynae team," he instructed calmly, donning the rest of the necessary protective clothing and glancing at the monitor. "We need to keep an eye on her pulse and blood pressure."
Her pulse was up, her blood pressure was dropping and she was showing all the signs of haemorrhage. But, unlike his less experienced colleague, he had no intention of sharing his concerns with an already worried patient.
Billy followed his gaze. "The gynae team?" His tone was level but his expression was confused. "I thought after an RTA and trauma, she'd need—"
"And she's of childbearing age, and before her husband landed the car in the ditch she was suffering from abdominal pain,'Alessandro reminded him, "so that is not to be forgotten. I want two lines in her straight away, wide-bore cannulae."
Responding immediately to his decisive tone, Nicky, one of the A and E sisters, pushed a trolley across Resus and Billy put a tourniquet on the woman's arm and ripped open the first cannula. "You think she might have a ruptured ectopic?"
"I don't know yet, but let's just say I have a low threshold of suspicion so I'm treating it as that until I have reason to think otherwise." Alessandro continued to deliver a steady stream of instructions while the staff around him bobbed and moved in perfect unison. They were so used to working together that they often anticipated each other's needs. He turned back to his patient. "Megan, is there any chance that you could be pregnant?"
"No—well, I mean..." The woman closed her eyes briefly. "It's so unlikely it's virtually impossible."
"In this department we deal with the unlikely and the impossible on a fairly regular basis," Alessandro replied with a wry smile. "When was your last period?"
"Months ago," she whispered. "I have endometriosis." He heard the catch in her voice and put a hand on her shoulder. "That must be hard for you," he said gently. "But right now we need to find out what injuries you suffered in the accident and try and get to the bottom of your abdominal pain. We need to undress you so that we can do a proper examination, head to toe, and find out exactly what is going on. Nicky?"
Nicky was already removing clothes, fingers and scissors moving swiftly as Alessandro started his examination.
"Where's her husband?" He was checking the body methodically, on the alert for anything life-threatening. "Was he injured?"
"He's fine,'Billy muttered as he successfully put the second line in and taped it in place. "Waiting in the relatives' room. Nicky put him there."
"She has a nasty laceration of her shoulder." Nicky reached for a sterile pad while Alessandro examined it swiftly.
"That's going to need stitching but it can wait," he murmured, his gaze sliding to the monitor again. "Her pressure is still dropping. I want to know why. And I want to know now. Did someone bleep the gynae team?"
"On their way," a staff nurse reported and Alessandro's eyes narrowed.
He didn't like the look of his patient. "Oh...'Nicky finished cutting off the woman's clothes and her face reflected shock before she quickly masked it. "We have some blood loss here, Alessandro."
One glance was all it took for him to measure the degree of the understatement. "Fast-bleep Jake Blackwell,'he ordered in a calm voice. "Cross-match six units of blood and get her rhesus status. We may need to give her anti-D. And someone get a blanket on her before she gets hypothermia."
Jake Blackwell, the consultant obstetrician, strode into the room minutes later. "You need my advice, Garcia? Struggling?" His eyes mocked but Alessandro was too worried about his patient to take the bait.
"I need you to do some work for a change," he drawled, but although his tone was casual and relaxed, his eyes were sharp and alert and his handover to his colleague was so succinct that Billy threw him a look of admiration.
Jake listened, examined the woman swiftly and then nodded, all traces of humour gone. "Megan, it looks as though you might have an ectopic pregnancy—that means that the egg has implanted somewhere other than your uterus and, in your case, it seems that it may have done some damage that we need to put right with an operation." He lifted his eyes to Alessandro. "She's going to need surgery. We'll take her straight to Theatre. Damn. I'm supposed to be somewhere else. I need to make a couple of calls—speak to the anaesthetist, juggle my list."
Alessandro leaned across and increased the flow of both the oxygen and the IV himself. "Just so long as you juggle it quickly. We'll transfer her to Theatre while you do what you need to do. Her husband is in our relatives' room if you want to tackle the issue of consent."
"Great.'Jake walked to the phone and punched in a number while Alessandro monitored his patient.
"Phone down and get that blood sent up to Theatre as soon as it's available," he ordered, and Nicky hurried to the nearest phone to do as he'd instructed.
Minutes later the woman was on her way to Theatre and Jake disappeared to talk to her husband.
He reappeared in the department hours later, after Alessandro had dealt with what felt like a million road accidents, intermingled with a significant number of people with flu.
"Why don't people stay in bed when they have flu?" he grumbled as Jake appeared in the doorway of his office. "For a start, if they can get out of bed then it isn't flu and it certainly isn't an accident or an emergency. Why come to a hospital and spread it around?"
"Because they're generous?'Jake strolled into the office and dropped onto the nearest chair without even bothering to move the pile of files that were covering it. "Hell, I'm knackered. I've spent the whole day in Theatre saving lives. One drama after another. You don't know you're born, working down here."
Alessandro thought of the two major RTAs, the heart attack and the sickle-cell crisis he'd dealt with since lunch-time. And the only way he'd known it had been lunchtime had been because he'd looked at the clock on the wall. He hadn't eaten for hours. "That's right. I spend my life sitting on my backside."
"Backside?" Jake grinned. "That doesn't sound like a particularly Spanish word, amigo."
Feeling tired and bad-tempered, Alessandro scowled at him. "Haven't you got anything better to do with your time than sit in my office, moaning?"
"Actually, I came down to see if you fancy grabbing a couple of beers after work. I have a feeling that our problems are nothing that alcohol can't fix."
Alessandro pulled a face. "Not tonight."
Jake yawned. "You working late?" 'I'm cleaning up the house.'Alessandro felt the tension rise inside him. "Christy and the kids are arriving tomorrow for Christmas. I need to throw out four months' worth of take-away cartons and fill the fridge with broccoli or she'll hit the roof. You know Christy and her obsession with nutrition."
Jake stared, his blue eyes suddenly keen and interested. "You guys are back together?"
"No. We're not back together.'Alessandro all but snapped the words out, his anger suddenly so close to the surface that his fingers tightened on the pencil he was holding and broke it in two. "We're spending Christmas in the same house for the sake of the kids."
"I see." Jake's eyes rested on the broken pencil, his expression thoughtful. "Well, that promises to be a peaceful Christmas, then. Better warn Santa to wear his flak jacket when he flies over your barn. Wouldn't want him to be caught in flying shrapnel as you two tear bits off each other."
Alessandro thought about all the occasions he'd seen Christy in the last six weeks. Brief occasions when they'd handed over the children. They'd barely spoken, let alone rowed. "It isn't like that any more." Christmas promised to be as icy cold as the weather and Alessandro was suddenly struck by inspiration. "Why don't you join us? You're their godfather."
Jake nodded. "I might do that if I can drag myself away from the irresistible lure of this place. You know how I am with cold hospital turkey and lumpy gravy. I've been trying to break myself of the addiction for years." He stretched his legs out in front of him. "You know, about this thing that's going on with you and Christy—"
"There's nothing going on. We're separated and that's all there is to it. And I don't want to talk about it." Alessandro's gaze was shuttered and Jake sighed.
"I just hate to see the two of you like this. You're my best friends and if anyone was ever meant to be together, it's you two. You should hang onto what you've got. It's hard enough finding anyone you get on vaguely well with in this world. Christy was crazy about you, right from day one. And you were crazy about her. I remember the day you guys met—"
"I said, I don't want to talk about it,'Alessandro said coldly, his dark eyes stormy and threatening as he rose to his feet and paced over to the window, angry with Jake for stirring up memories that he'd spent ages trying to bury. How could he ever forget the day he'd first met Christy?
He stared out of the window. Outside, snow lay thick on the ground, disguising the usually familiar landscape. In the distance the fells rose. He studied their familiar jagged lines and then turned, his volatile Mediterranean temper bubbling to the surface. "She left me."
"I know." Jake's voice was soft. "I wonder why she felt she had to do that?"
Alessandro's jaw tensed. "If you're implying that any of this is my fault, you're wrong."
"Christy adores you. She's crazy about you and always has been. If she left you, she must have been desperate," Jake said quietly. "She must have felt there was no other way to get through to you."
"That's ridiculous. She could have talked to me."
Jake's expression was inscrutable. "Could she? Did you make yourself available?"
Alessandro sucked in a frustrated breath. "How could we talk when she left me?" He sounded impossibly Spanish and Jake gave a wry smile.
"So is that what this is all about?" His eyes narrowed. "Pride? She was the one to walk away from you so you're not going to go after her? Why did she leave you, Al?'Jake's voice was calm as he rose to his feet. "Try asking yourself that question while you're binning take-away cartons."
And with that parting shot he left the room and closed the door quietly behind him.