When Kit and Natalie Rodgers lost their baby boy, it felt like nothing would be the same again.
After six years apart, they unexpectedly find themselves working together in the pediatrics department at St. Joseph's. So much has changed, but they rediscover the intense feelings that originally brought them together.
They spend one wonderful night in each other's arms, and begin to wonder if their secret wish to be together just might come true….
|File size:||503 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
SO THIS was it. Natalie's first day as a doctor—a pre-registration house officer, if you wanted to split hairs, but a brand-new doctor was still a doctor. Her hospital ID badge said DR
NATALIE WILKINS. This was what she'd worked for. Hard.
Against everyone's advice. And she'd finally made it. So what if she was six years older than the other house officers? The important thing was, she'd been offered a six months' post in the paediatric department of St Joseph's hospital.
Not the same hospital as Ethan—
Natalie cut the thought short before it could grab hold and choke her with remembered misery.
Paediatrics was probably the toughest option she could have chosen. Six years ago, she'd thought she'd never be able to walk onto a children's ward again. But she could do it and she would do it. Six months here, six months in emergency medicine, then back to paediatrics. Next move: senior house officer. Two years'further training and she'd be taking the paediatric specialist exams. And from there she'd make a real difference. Maybe stop other parents going through—
No. She wasn't going to think about that now. She had work to do.
She headed for the reception desk on the ward and introduced herself to the maternal-looking nurse in the dark blue uniform who was working through a stack of patient files. "I was told to report here."
Even though she'd tried to sound cool, calm and professional, some of her first-day nerves must have shown, because the nurse gave her a beaming smile. "Hello, love. Welcome to Nightingale Ward. I'm Debbie Jacobs, the senior sister—I was off duty when you came for interview. You've got a few minutes until Lenox arrives, so let me show you where everything is."
Fifteen minutes later, Natalie had a key to her own locker in the staffroom, knew where the parents'rooms and isolation cubicles were as well as the general bays, had gulped down her first cup of coffee on the ward, had been introduced to ten people whose names she was sure she'd never remember, and had started a ward round with Lenox Curtis, the consultant.
In at the deep end.
Doing observations, checking medication and treatment plans, venturing her opinion when it was asked for. Hesitantly, at first, but the more she got right, the more her confidence blossomed. By the end, she was able to reassure the anxious parents of a seven-month-old girl who'd been brought in with abdominal pain.
"Maia was always a colicky baby, but she seemed to be getting better. Then she started drawing her legs up again and screaming for two or three minutes." The little girl's mother was shaking. "She's been off her food the last day. And then I saw this red stuff in her nappy."
"A bit like redcurrant jelly?" Natalie asked. "Yes."
Natalie examined the little girl gently. The baby's stomach was distended, and Natalie could feel a sausage-shaped mass, curved and concave to the umbilical cord. As Natalie gently pressed the mass, Maia lifted her legs and screamed again.
"All right, sweetheart." Natalie soothed the baby gently, stroking her face and calming her down. She noted that the soft spot on the top of the baby's head had sunk a bit, showing that the little girl was dehydrated.
"What's wrong with her?" Maia's father asked. "It's something called intussusception—it's where one segment of the bowel telescopes into another segment and constricts the blood supply. That's why you see the redcur-rant-jelly-like stuff—it's a mixture of blood and mucus. But it's nothing either of you have done," she reassured them both swiftly. "It just happens. It might be that she has a polyp—a non-cancerous growth—that started it off. Quite a lot of children get intussusception before they're two, so we're very used to treating it here. I'm going to send her for an ultrasound in a minute so we can see exactly what we're looking at—it doesn't hurt and it's the same sort of scan you had when you were pregnant."
Maia's father turned white. "Is she going to have to have surgery?"
"Hopefully not. You've brought her in early, so we might be able to sort it out by an air enema—what we do is put a pipe in her bottom and blow air in to gently manoeuvre the bowel back to where it should be. If that doesn't work, we'll need to sort her bowel out surgically, but the good news is she's got an excellent chance of a full recovery." She smiled at them. "I'll book Maia in for an ultrasound now, and because she's a bit dehydrated I'm going to put her on a drip so we can get some fluids into her. In the meantime, to make her a bit more comfortable, I need to put a tube into her nose and down into her tummy—that will help get rid of any air that's built up." It also drained the stomach contents, which made the procedures easier. "I'll be able to give you a better idea of how we're going to treat her when I've seen the scan."
"But she'll be OK?" Maia's mother asked. "She's going to be fine," Natalie promised. Had the problem been left a few weeks longer, gangrene might have set in, and the outcome would have been very different. But she was confident that this case would be absolutely fine.
And it felt good, so good, to help people. To make a difference to people's lives. To make things right again.
"So did you enjoy your first ward round here?" Lenox asked when they'd finished.
"I think so,'Natalie said with a smile. "It was a bit nerve-racking to start with, but it got easier towards the end."
He smiled back. "You'll do fine. Give it a week and you'll feel as if you've been here for ever. And tomorrow you won't even be our newest recruit."
"You've got another house officer starting?" Natalie asked, interested.
"Special registrar," Lenox explained. "We were lucky to poach him from London—he's quite a whiz. His name's Christopher Rodgers."
Ice trickled down Natalie's spine. Christopher Rodgers. No, it had to be a coincidence. Rodgers was a common enough surname, and Christopher was a popular first name. There was more than just one Christopher Rodgers in the world.
"Though it seems everyone calls him Kit,'Lenox added. Kit?
Most Christophers were known as Chris. Kit was the posh diminutive. A much, much less common diminutive.
No. It couldn't be him. Surely.
The Kit she'd known had been training as a surgeon, not as a paediatric specialist. Then again, Natalie had been a history teacher and she'd retrained. Kit might have done the same thing...for the same reasons.
Well, she'd deal with it tomorrow.
If she had to.
She managed to put Kit out of her mind when she took Maia for an ultrasound. The results showed the double ring she was expecting. "Definitely intussusception."
"Anything else?" Lenox asked.
She looked carefully at the scan. "It doesn't look as if there's any perforation or significant ischaemia. So I'd say it would be safe to go ahead with the air enema."
"Good call," he said. "Would you like me to talk you through it, or would you prefer to watch me do it?"
"I've seen one done before, though I haven't actually performed one," she said. "I'd like to try myself, if that's all right with you."
"That's fine." He smiled. "I think you're going to be an asset to the team—you're prepared to try things rather than hang back. Good."
He talked her through the procedure. As the pressure-regulated air gently pushed into the bowel, the bowel began to expand and the constricted part finally untelescoped.
"Bingo," Lenox said with a smile. "You've done it. Happy about managing the after-care?"
"Yes." 'Good. You can go and talk to the parents on your own." She smiled at him, and went to see Maia's parents. "You'll be pleased to know the procedure was a complete success, so Maia won't need to go for surgery. We're going to keep her in for a day or so, just to keep an eye on her and sort out her fluids, but she should be fine."
"Oh, thank God," Maia's mother said. "Could she get it again?" Maia's father asked. "It's extremely unlikely," Natalie reassured them. "Thank you so much, Dr Wilkins."
Natalie smiled, and left them making a fuss over their little girl. So this was what being a doctor was all about. Making a difference. Helping.
She could almost understand why Kit had buried himself in his job.
It was good to be home. Well, not quite home, Kit thought. He hadn't actually lived in Birmingham when he'd worked there before. He'd lived in Litchford-in-Arden, a little Warwickshire village halfway between Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon, in a picture-postcard cottage that overlooked the village green with its duck-pond and huge oak tree. Close to an ancient church where part of his heart would always lie.
When his world had fallen apart, Kit had fled to London. He'd wanted to lose himself in the anonymity of the city, avoid the pitying glances and the sympathy of people around him. It had worked for a while, but the busyness of the city had never really eased the ache in his heart. He'd never quite been able to block it out, no matter how many hours he worked or how hard he drove himself.
Now he was back. Near enough maybe to find some peace, but far enough away that people around him wouldn't know about the past. And, more to the point, they wouldn't offer him the pity he didn't want—didn't need.Hewasapaediatric specialist, and a good one, on track to becoming a consultant. He'd be good for St Joseph's, and St Joseph's would be good for him. Yes, this was going to work out just fine.
And everything was fine until he walked into the staffroom and saw the woman in a white coat talking to another woman in a sister's uniform. His heart missed a beat.
Except it couldn't be. Tally was a teacher, not a doctor. And this woman had short, cropped hair instead of Tally's Pre-Raphaelite curls. She was thinner than Tally, too. No, he was just seeing things. Wishful thinking, maybe. And he needed to get his subconscious wishes back under control, right now. Stop seeing his ex-wife in every stranger's face. The past was the past and it was going to stay that way.
And then the woman looked up, saw him and every bit of colour leached from her face.
He wouldn't be surprised if he'd gone just as white. Because it really was her. It was the first time they'd met in five and a half years. "Tally?" The name felt as if it had been ripped from him.
"Natalie," she corrected. "Hello, Kit."
Her voice was like ice. A voice that had once been warm and soft, a voice that had once slurred his name in passion.
But that had been before Ethan. "Do you two know each other?" the nurse she'd been talking to asked.
"We went to the same university," Tally cut in quickly. "We haven't seen each other in years."
It was the truth. But very, very far from the whole truth. Obviously Tally didn't want to admit just how well they'd known each other.
Then again, Kit didn't exactly want the whole truth known either. Or the gossip and speculation that was bound to go with it.
Hell, hell, hell. If he'd had any idea that Tally had become a doctor—that she was working here—he would never have come to St Joseph's. He'd have stayed in London. Maybe even gone abroad for a while, got some experience in America or worked for Doctors Without Borders.
A quick glance at her ID badge told him that Tally was using her maiden name. Not that that meant anything. She might be married again now. Though he couldn't see a ring on her left hand, or a tell-tale band of paler skin on her ring finger. Maybe not married, then. Probably living with someone. Family was important to Natalie. She wouldn't be living on her own. She'd clearly moved on with her life.
Just like he had.
And he damped down the 'if only'before it had a chance to echo in his head.
He focused on the nurse and extended his hand. "Kit Rodgers. Pleased to meet you. I'm the new boy."
"And I'm Debbie Jacobs. Senior sister, for my sins." The nurse smiled at him. "Well, you've plenty in common with our Natalie, then. She's new, too—she started yesterday." She gave them both a curious look. "Since you know each other, you two must have a lot to catch up on."
Natalie's reaction was clearly written on her face. Not if I can help it.
"We didn't really know each other that well," Kit said coolly. Again, not the whole truth, but true enough. By the end, they'd been complete strangers. Living separate lives. And he'd wondered if he'd ever really known her.
"Natalie, maybe you can show Kit where everything is?" 'Um, yes. Sure." And she smiled.
Oh, hell. He knew that smile. The bright one that pretended nothing was wrong—when, inside, everything was wrong. The one that spelled trouble with a capital T.