Dr. Hannah Bennett left country life behind and accepted a position in a busy London emergency department for one reason only—to track down her real mother.
But working with the handsome Dr. Adam Driscoll was proof that city life could be exciting and very dangerous. They had parted on bad terms years ago, yet the attraction between them still sizzles. Could this London doctor be the one to help Hannah overcome her fears and finally face a future filled with love and happiness?
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HANNAH pulled the door of her flat firmly shut. It wasn't a good fit against the frame, and she made a face, struggling with the lock, but she wasn't going to let it deter her from making certain that everything was secure. There wasn't all that much to recommend the accommodation, but at least it was a place to stay while she was going to be working in London for the next few months.
"Is you going out?" a small voice piped up from the bottom of the stairs, and Hannah glanced to where the sound was coming from.
"Hello, Ellie," she said, peering down to see the little girl from the ground-floor flat. "Yes, I'm on my way to work at the hospital. Are you waiting to go off to nursery school?" Hannah started down the stairs, her mouth curving as she came closer to the child.
The three-year-old was sitting on the bottom step, cuddling a soft toy to her chest, but now she twisted around and looked up at Hannah once more. She nodded solemnly, her bright golden curls quivering. "We was s'posed to be going ages ago, but Mummy's late. She couldn't get up this morning. She sleeped and sleeped and I had to keep nudging her."
"She's awake now, though, isn't she?" Hannah frowned momentarily. After the disturbed night they had just gone through, she wasn't really surprised that Ellie's mother wasn't firing on all cylinders this morning, but at least Ellie had slept through everything.
It had taken Hannah all that she had to get herself ready for work this morning, but this was her first day in a new job and she was determined to be there in good time. It didn't bode too well that she was feeling drained of energy before she even started, though.
Ellie nodded, dancing the teddy bear on her knees. "She forgetted something. She's gone back to get it."
Hannah came to the last step and sat down beside the little girl. "He's a lovely teddy bear, isn't he?" she murmured, lightly stroking the silky fur. "What's his name?"
Ellie's gaze met hers in an unwavering blue stare. "His name's Teddy," she said.
"Oh, well, yes, of course, it would be, wouldn't it?" Hannah chuckled softly. "Is he going to nursery school with you?"
"Yes." Ellie looked surprised. "He goes everywhere with me."
Just then Ellie's mother emerged from her flat, looking harassed. "Hi, Hannah," she said, throwing her a quick, friendly glance. She had the same blue eyes as her daughter, but she was a brunette, her hair glossy and shoulder length, pinned back with two gold clips. "We're running late today. All that upheaval with Dean upstairs meant that it took me ages to get to sleep afterwards. I kept worrying about what might have happened if we hadn't gone in and helped out."
"It was a good thing that his smoke alarm was working,'Hannah agreed, "otherwise things might have been much worse. He's obviously having trouble getting about since his knee operation, and we all had a lucky escape. I dread to think what might have happened—the chip-pan fire could have set light to the whole building if we hadn't gone in when we did."
"Do you think he'll be all right?'Abby asked. "He's seemed depressed lately and I can't help feeling that we ought to do something to help out. I have to go to the office this morning, though, so he'll be on his own here."
"I'm not sure what more we can do, just at the moment. He was half-asleep when I went to look in on him this morning, but he said that his knee was troubling him and that he was going to take some painkillers and go back to bed for a while. He's supposed to be going for a check-up at the hospital later on today—around two o'clock, he said."
"I'll be home by then. I'll have a word with him at lunchtime, and make sure that he's up and about. He'll need a hand with cleaning up some of the smoke damage, anyway."
"Thanks, Abby. I'll feel better knowing that we're both going to keep an eye on him from now on." It shouldn't be too difficult to do that—Dean's flat occupied half of the second floor, opposite Hannah's, while Abby and her daughter had a two-bedroomed flat taking up the whole of the ground floor.
Abby glanced at her watch. "I must go—I have to drop Ellie off at nursery school before I go in to work."
"Me, too... I want to get in to work early so that I can familiarise myself with everything before I have to make a start."
Hannah said her goodbyes and left the house, hurriedly making her way to the tube station. With any luck, her journey would only take around half an hour and then she would have just a two-minute walk to the City Hospital. Once there, she was hoping to have time to find her bearings and adjust herself to her new role as senior house officer in A and E.
She wasn't sure what to expect. Everyone had said that this was the best teaching hospital around, and she was lucky to have landed a post here, even though it was only for a six-month stretch. Her nerves were already beginning to get the better of her, though, and when she finally arrived at her destination, the hospital seemed to loom up in front of her. It was an imposing building. It was a huge, sprawling, impersonal place, like the city, and she faltered, wondering whether she might have made a mistake in coming here.
After a moment, she went inside. At least she had made friends with her neighbours, the people who shared the house with her. Getting to know Abby and her daughter had been good. It went part way to making the cramped living conditions seem more bearable. Dean, the young man who lived in the flat across the hallway from Hannah, was a bit of an unknown quantity as yet, but he seemed sociable enough.
"So, you're the new SHO?" Mr Tremayne, the consultant, was a tall man, in his mid-forties, she guessed, and he had black hair, silvering a little around the edges, giving him a distinguished look.
She nodded, and he said, "Good. Grab yourself some protective covering and you can help out over here. We've had an influx of patients from a road traffic accident, and we need every pair of hands we can get hold of."
He was clearly not going to waste any time on preliminaries. "I was going to put you with our specialist registrar, but he has his hands full right now, and Colin could do with some help in the meantime. He's trying to save a man's leg. Compound shaft of femur fracture—as well as tibial fracture. The circulation could be compromised. When you've finished there, you can go and look for our registrar."
He paused, then threw back, almost as an afterthought, "He's from the same neck of the woods as you, I believe—the Chilterns, isn't it? Even the same area, I think."
Hannah was puzzled. It sounded as though he thought she might know the man, but she didn't know anyone who worked in London. As it was, she was more than a little distracted by being thrown in at the deep end. She didn't have time right now to worry about who the specialist registrar might be.
No matter how edgy she might be feeling, Colin, the doctor she had temporarily been assigned to, appeared to be even more so. He looked worried. His dark hair fell in a haphazard way across his brow, giving him a youthful look.
"The analgesia isn't adequate," he said, assessing his patient who was groaning and clearly suffering. "I'm going to have to try a femoral nerve block." He glanced at the nurse who was assisting. "Sarah, have you had any luck finding the orthopaedic surgeon yet?"
"He's on his way."
He sent Hannah a quick look. "Check the dosage of lignocaine with me, will you? He's going to need the maximum."
Hannah did as she was asked, then cleaned the patient's skin in preparation for the insertion of the needle. Colin started the procedure, inserting the needle perpendicular to the skin and lateral to the artery, then aspirated and checked for blood, before starting to inject the local anaesthetic. He moved the needle, fanning it in and out laterally. After a moment, he sucked in his breath and, though he didn't say anything, Hannah guessed that he had punctured the artery.
"I'll have to start again, as soon as the bleeding stops," he muttered. He apologised to his patient, who screwed up his eyes and clenched his hands.
"Do you want me to compress the area?" Hannah asked. It wasn't his fault. It happened sometimes, and she felt sorry for both Colin and the patient.
He nodded. "Give it five minutes, and then I'll try again. I'll take a wound swab while we're waiting. We're giving him cefuroxime in case of infection, but I may need to add metronidazole."
The next time, when he tried the nerve block, he was successful. Hannah hurried to prepare the backslab in order to immobilise the limb and Colin covered the wound with povidone-iodine soaks. "That should hold things until he goes for surgery," he said. He sent Hannah a quick look. "You've not come to us on the best of days. It feels as though all hell's been let loose round here."
"So it seems." She gave a weak smile. "I was supposed to be working with the specialist registrar when I've finished helping you—do you know where he is?"
"He was with a patient in cubicle three last time I saw him, but he could be anywhere by now. Adam's one of those quicksilver figures—you never know with him. He might be working on a cardiac patient, or he could be supervising a student. It always seems as though he's in three places at once."
"I saw him going over to the coffee machine a while back," Sarah put in. She was a pretty young woman, a brunette, with grey eyes that reflected an outgoing personality. She waved a hand in the direction of a bay that was set back from the main area of A and E. "You can grab something to drink from there any time you like, while you're on the move, in between breaks."
"Thanks. That's useful to know."
She sent Hannah a querying look. "I heard you were from somewhere around the West Wycombe area. Perhaps you know Adam already? His father's Monroe Driscoll—you know, the Driscoll import-export conglomerate? He has a big country estate round about where you come from. Perhaps you've seen it?"
Hannah felt a prickling sensation run down the back of her neck. "Yes, I know the estate.'Her voice sounded hollow in her ears.
Sarah was looking at a point beyond her. "Adam,'she said, "we were just talking about you." She directed a hand towards Hannah. "This is Hannah, our new SHO. Perhaps you two already know each other?"
Hannah half turned as the specialist registrar approached. She looked him over, her gaze transfixed. Adam Driscoll was every bit the man she remembered...long and lean, rangy and confident in his stride, his features perfectly sculpted, his hair as black as jet. Her heart tripped into a thudding, erratic beat in response to his nearness, and it bothered her that he still had the power to enthral her, to make her go weak at the knees.
She stared at him and all the memories came flooding back in full force. Their last meeting had not been a happy one. Harsh words had been said, and recriminations left to hang in the air. The same brooding tension rose up between them now as though the years had dropped away in an instant.
Adam's gaze travelled over her steadily, with cool intent. "Oh, yes," he said. "We've met before, haven't we, Hannah?"