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Could saving their child be the gift that brings them together?
Jodi Hawke will do anything to save her desperately ill toddler, including facing the only man she's loved, the only man she had to walk away fromher son's father, Dr. Mitchell Maitland.
Mitchell never thought he would see the one woman to haunt his dreams ever again. But the return of his beautiful Jodi comes with another bombshellhe's a daddy, and his little helpless son is sick. He's the boy's only hope. Finally Mitchell has his chance to prove to Jodi that he can be the man she needs and the father Jamie deserves .
About the Author
With a background of working in medical laboratories and a love of the romance genre it's no surprise that Sue Mackay writes medical romance stories. She wrote her first story at age eight and hasn't stopped since. She lives in New Zealand's Marlborough Sounds where she indulges her passions for cycling, walking and kayaking. When she isn't writing she also loves cooking and entertaining guests with sumptuous meals that include locally caught fish.
Read an Excerpt
Jodi Hawke swung the budget rental car against the kerb and hauled the handbrake on hard. Her heart was in her mouth as she peered through the grease-smeared windscreen towards the small, neat semi-attached town house she'd finally found after an hour of driving around, through and over Parnell. Auckland was not her usual playground. But that was about to changefor a time at least. No matter what the outcome of this meeting.
A chill lifted goosebumps on her skin. 'I can't do this.'
Brushing her too-long fringe out of her eyes, she turned to glare at her guilt-ridden reflection in the rear-vision mirror, and snapped, 'You have to.'
Think what's at stake. 'Jamie's life depends on you doing this. And doing it right. This day has always been hovering in the background, waiting for show time.'
Before she could overthink the situation for the trillionth time Jodi elbowed the door open and slid out onto the road. The unassuming brick town house sat back from the road, a path zeroing in on the front door with the precision of a ruled line. The lawn had been mown to within a millimetre of its life, and the gardens were bare of anything other than some white flowering ground cover.
'So Mitch's still too busy working to put time or effort into anything else.' It followed that he'd still not be taking care of any relationships either.
'Some things never change.' Which was unfortunate because, like it or not, big changes were on Mitch's horizon. She was about to tip his world upside down, inside out. For ever.
Whatever his reaction he would never be able to forget what she was about to tell him. Mitchell Maitland, the man who'd stolen her heart more than three years ago, was about to get the shock of his life. The man she'd walked away from in a moment of pure desperation when it had finally hit home that he was never, ever going to change. Not for anyone, and especially not for her.
Unfortunately she'd needed his total commitment, not just the few hours he'd given her in a week. Growing up, she'd learned that when people were busy getting ahead they didn't have time for others, not to mention handing out love and affection. Except, silly woman that she'd been, she'd thought, hoped, Mitch might've been different despite all the warning signs to the contrary. She'd believed her love for him would overcome anything.
Lately she'd learned the hard way that there was more to a relationship than love and affection. There was responsibility, honesty and integrity. Things she'd overlooked in Mitch. Because of that, Mitch wouldn't forgive her in a hurryif at all. And now it was payback time for what she'd omitted to tell him in the weeks and years since she'd told him to go.
Stepping up the path, she ignored the butterflies flapping in her belly, and went for bravado. 'Hello, Mitchell. Remember me? I'm the one who got away still mostly intact. Left you when it became apparent you had no more time for me than it took to have a good bonk.'
At the very moment her palm pressed hard on the doorbell she noted the open windows, the curtains moving in the light breeze, heard music inside somewhere. Not Mitchell's preferred heavy rock but a country tune.
She closed her eyes and hauled a lungful. What if he's got a wife now? Or a live-in partner? But the answers to the few questions she'd felt safe asking of a colleague from Otago Hospital, Mitch's old stomping ground, had reassured her he was still single and playing the field as hard as ever. But what if the information was incorrect? Maybe she should ask around some more before dropping her bombshell. Maybe she should go and hide from the truthagain. That would help heaps. Not.
In truth, she didn't want to hurt Mitchellat all. Too late. You already have. He just doesn't know it. Yet. But if there had been another way around the problem she'd have found it.
'I need to do this,' she said under her breath. 'It's life or death. Jamie's lifeor death.' Bracing her shoulders, she pressed the bell again. And gaped at the waif-like woman who tugged the door wide.
An open face with a beautiful smile, long black hair falling down her back, big brown eyes filled with friendliness. 'Hello?'
Jodi's fingers combed her own straggly tufts that looked as though she'd taken the wool clippers to them. No time or money to spend on caring for inessentials such as hair. A twist of envy wound through her as she studied this woman. She'd been fooling herself. Mitch wouldn't be alone. Good-looking, highly sexed, streetwise men like him never were. 'Hello, I'm Dr Jodi Hawke. Is Mitchell at home?'
The woman smiled easily, apparently not at all concerned with a strange female's sudden appearance on the doorstep. 'Sorry, but he's at work, even though it is Saturday. I'd say come back later but who knows what time he'll get home. He puts in long hours, always doing extra shifts.'
I know. That was the problem. One of the problems, she corrected herself. 'He works at Auckland General Hospital, right?' Just checking she had that fact correct.
'Isn't he wonderful? Helping all those sick kids? He's got such a lovely way with them. When our Lilly broke her arm Mitch fixed her up as easy as, and even made her laugh while he was doing it.'
Our Lilly. Mitchell had a daughter? The guy who'd sworn off having his own kids for ever? Jodi's head spun and she groped for the wall to gain some stability as darkness crashed down over her eyes. This was turning out an even bigger nightmare than she'd believed possible.
'Hey, careful. You're going to fall in a heap.' A hand gripped her elbow firmly, propelling her over the doorstep and into a small en-tranceway. 'What's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost. Or as our Lilly would say, seen a vampire. Here ' The woman pushed her onto a chair. She was surprisingly strong for such a small woman. 'Sit and put your head between your knees while I get you a glass of cold water.'
'II'm s-sorry,' Jodi whispered to the departing woman. 'I never faint. Must be something in the air.' Yeah, something called cowardice. 'Toughen up. You're a mother and mothers do anything for their children. Anything.'
A shadow crossed the floor in front of Jodi. Carefully lifting her head, her eyes met a sympathetic gaze.
'Here, drink this. My name's Claire, by the way.' The woman knelt beside the chair and held the glass to Jodi's lips. 'What happened? Gee, one minute you're asking about Mitch, the next you're dropping like a sack of spuds.'
'I'm not sure. Must be the heat.' Heat? In autumn? 'Or something I ate earlier.' Her voice dwindled off as she sucked in her lie. The half piece of toast at six that morning would hardly do this. Taking the glass from Claire, she sipped the refreshing water, and met the perplexed gaze of this kind woman. 'I'm sorry, truly. I'll get out of your way.' Suddenly in a hurry to leave, she stood up, and swayed on her feet. Once more Claire grabbed at her, pushed her down on the chair.
'Not so fast. You can't walk outside like this. You'll fall and hurt yourself.'
Embarrassed at her unusual situation, Jodi drained the water and forced her brain to clear away the furry edges brought on by her near faint. In an attempt to divert her mind she looked around the entryway, then, through an open door into the lounge. Something wasn't right. Too neat and tidy, impersonal. No toys or children's books. Nothing to show a child resided here. 'Your daughter doesn't live with you?'
'Of course she does.' Then understanding dawned in Claire's eyes. 'I don't live here.' She chuckled. 'I'm Mitch's cleaning lady. Not his girlfriend.' She went off into peals of laughter, crossing her arms over her stomach. 'As if. I'm married to Dave, a long-haul truckie. We're saving to buy our own house.'
Relief poured through Jodi. 'I've got it all wrong, haven't I?' Thank goodness, because she really didn't want to upset this woman who'd been so kind to her. 'I'd better get going. No point in waiting for Mitch.' Back to the motel and Jamie. Mum would be busy working on her latest financial report, hoping Jamie stayed asleep while Jodi was out. But at least she'd come up with them to help out over the first few days until Jodi knew what would happen. Totally unlike her hardworking mother to be away from her corner grocery store for even a day, let alone a whole week.
Concern clouded Claire's eyes. 'Hey, I wouldn't let you stay here without Mitch's say-so. He doesn't know you're visiting, does he?'
How had she figured that out? 'No. I, we, flew up from Dunedin today. It's a surprise.' Surprise? If what she had to tell Mitch was a surprise then she'd hate to think what a stealth bomber was.
Claire headed for the front door and waved her through. 'That's all right, then. I like the guy. He's kind and always pays me more money than I ask for, and never leaves a huge mess to clean up. I wouldn't want to muck up what I've got going here.'
Once a charmer, always a charmer. Jodi squeezed past her. 'Thank you for the water.' The path wavered before her and she concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other as she headed for the car.
'Excuse me. Jodi, wasn't it?' Claire called after her.
She paused, glanced over her shoulder.
'In case you want to know, as far as I can see, Mitch hasn't got a woman in his life at the moment. When he's here he only uses the bathroom, one half of his bed and the kitchen.'
Relief made Jodi feel wobbly again but she kept focused on that footpath and finally made it back to the stuffy car. Inside she rolled down the window to let some cooler air float across her face. Phew. The fact she'd all but fainted showed how much of a pickle she'd got herself into. The prospect of facing up to Mitch had given her endless sleepless nights. And now, after getting mentally prepared, her moment of reckoning had been delayed. It was killing her.
Nothing compared to what's happening to Jamie.
She reached for the ignition. Glanced at the house. Saw Claire wave before she closed the front door. Claire, the cleaning lady. Not the wife or girlfriend. Mitch really was single.
Something akin to excitement bubbled through her, warmed her from the inside out. Mitch was single. So what? He was toast, had been since the night he'd done his usual no-show. Except that time she'd been sitting in the swanky restaurant, at the table he'd booked for her birthday, drinking the champagne he'd preordered, tossing up between roast salmon on fennel or venison steak when she'd seen his brother come in with his current glamorous toss. The brother she'd previously gone out with, and who'd never let her down. But who'd also never made her skin ache with need or her hormones dance the tango at the thought of him touching her. Only Mitch had ever done that.
Max had seen her, seated his date, then crossed to say in a satisfied tone, 'So Mitchell's let you down yet again, has he?'
And that had been the moment she'd known she was done with the Maitland twins. For ever. She'd taken her bottle of champagne and what was left in it, bought another, and headed home, stopping only to get a burger and chips on the way. She'd got thoroughly drunk all by herself. And in the morning she'd called in sicknot hard to do with the hangover she'd hadand had spent the hours packing. When Mitch had raced in about midday full of apologies she'd pointed to his bags and asked for her key back. 'I won't be treated as an afterthought. Last night was the final time you do that to me. I'm worthy of more than what you're prepared to give me.' Pride had kept back the words 'I love you', instead replaced with, 'We're over. I'm sorry.'
And she had been very sorry, and brokenhearted, but she'd known if she hadn't stood up for herself she'd eventually have been worn down to become a needy woman waiting and begging for a few minutes of Mitch's attention. Like her mother had with Dad. She'd done her share of begging her father for some attention too. Dad had spent every day and night charming people into handing over their hard-earned savings for him to invest. He'd missed her birthdays, too.
So Jodi Hawke didn't do needy. Not now, not ever. She stood up for herself. Had learned the hard way at ten years old when she'd been humiliated and harassed at school for her father's crimes that when you needed friends onside they let you down. When he'd ended up in jail there'd been an endless stream of kids to taunt her. Turning to her mother for solace had been a mistake. Dealing with her own problems and working every hour she could to climb out of the debt-laden hole Dad had left them in, Mum had had very little time for her too.
Withdrawing from everyone, Jodi had learned to fight back. If anyone wanted to be her friend they'd had to prove their worth. Two girls had stood by her, and were still there for her, as she was for them. But not one of the trio was needy, just sometimes requiring friendship and a shoulder to soak with tears. Entirely different.
Driving away from the house, Jodi wondered what Mitch would be like now. One thing was for sure, he'd still be a hunk with a sculpted body that he worked on in the gym. And those hands. Her tongue lapped her lips. The hands that knew unbelievable things about a woman's body, had incredibly exciting ways of ramping up the desire that was always waiting just under her skin whenever he was near. Then there were those mesmerising blue eyes that had reminded her of summer, even on the bleakest of days. Until the end of their relationship, that was. That had been a grey day.
'It will be winter glittering out at me today, though. Mitch is so going to hate me.'
Being dunked in an ice bucket couldn't have chilled her as much. Her skin lifted, her spine shuddered, and her fingers clenched.
'Remember how quickly he replaced you. Two weeks? Or was it three?'
That did not alleviate the chill gripping her body. At the end of the day there was no denying she'd done a bad thing. The fact they'd broken up wasn't an excuse. But everything else that had happened might have been. Would Mitch understand her actions back then? Forgive her?
She already knew the answer, and yet still pleaded, 'Please, please, Mitchell, remember one of the good moments we shared and go easy on me. I know I did wrong, but I need you onside now.'
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.5 Star Review In The Gift of a Child by Sue MacKay, Jodi Hawke left the love of her life after being stood up one too many times. There was always an emergency more important than her, and the last straw came on her birthday when she was stood up at the restaurant. But now she needs to seek out Dr Mitchell Maitland once again or loose her child forever. Mitchell never forgot Jodi, but he always believed that he was justified and that she acted irrationally. Unfortunately, that only led to her keeping his child for him for the past three years and being told he is a father when his child is on the brink of life and death is devastating. He is the last chance that Jamie has, but first he has to face his own issues before he can commit to his child. Mitchell never thought that he wanted a child, but one look at Jamie and a link has been forged that keeps bringing him back to Jamie and Jodi. The challenges ahead are tougher than any parent should face, and Jodi and Mitchell have to face their own past mistakes along with their child’s illness. But the biggest challenge for Mitchell will be asking his estranged twin brother and the best surgeon, Max Maitland to be the surgeon that will have his child’s life in his hands. And finding a way to convince Jodi to give him a second chance will take more effort than he ever thought he would be willing to make, but for the family he never thought he wanted he might just go through every sacrifice necessary. First book in this duet, The Gift of a Child by Sue MacKay is a deeply emotional, heart-rending story that will make you smile and make you cry. I truly recommend it, and don’t miss the second book the story about Max.