Career Girl in the Country / The Doctor's Reason to Stay

BOOK: Career Girl in the Country / The Doctor's Reason to Stay
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Career Girl
in the Country

Fiona Lowe

The Doctor’s
Reason to Stay

Dianne Drake

www.millsandboon.co.uk

Career Girl
in the Country

Fiona Lowe

Praise for
Fiona Lowe:

‘MIRACLE: TWIN BABIES is a wonderful story, full
of heart, pathos and humour, that will make you laugh
and cry. Fiona Lowe never fails to write enchanting,
heartwarming and realistic Medical™ Romances, with
wonderful three-dimensional characters you’d love to
know (and, in the case of her heroes, love to love!).
A spellbinding and emotional tale. Talented Australian
author Fiona Lowe has penned another enjoyable
romantic tale that will make your heart sing!’

—Cataromance.com

A new trilogy from
Dianne Drake:

With THE DOCTOR’S REASON TO STAY
Dianne Drake welcomes you to the first story in her
New York Hospital Heartthrobs
trilogy

Three gorgeous guys return home to upstate New York.
It’s a place they love to hate—until they each find a
bride amidst the bustle of a very special hospital.

Dear Reader

Poppy Stanfield is a successful surgeon who’s on the cusp of being made Chief of Surgery: her ultimate goal and everything she’s spent years working towards. So when she’s suddenly sent to Bundallagong not only does she think she has landed on Mars, she thinks life as she knows it has ended too. All she can see is plains and red dust, and not even the sparkling Indian Ocean is enough to win her over. From the first moment she steps onto Bundallagong soil she is making plans to leave.

But sometimes what we think is the worst thing possible turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to us. Poppy has no clue that this is going to be her story, and she’s not quick to realise it either as she rails against everything Bundallagong throws at her.

Dr Matt Albright had the perfect life until it was stolen from him, and now he doesn’t care where he lives or who lives with him—which is why he’s totally ignoring the goanna that has moved into his roof! He goes to work each day and goes through the motions of living, hating that the town he loves now walks on eggshells around him. When he first meets Poppy all he can see is a starchy, uptight woman who is going to drive him absolutely spare.

The isolation of the Outback, with its fiery heat, will either send you mad or heal you; I’ll let you read on to find out what is in store for Poppy and Matt!?

I hope you enjoy their story! For photos of the area that inspired the story, head to my website at www.fionalowe.com I love to chat to my readers, and you can also find me at Facebook (Fiona Lowe author), Twitter, and at eharlequin’s Medical Romance Authors’ blog or via my website. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy reading!

Love
Fiona x

About the Author

Always an avid reader,
FIONA LOWE
decided to combine her love of romance with her interest in all things medical, so writing Medical

Romance was an obvious choice! She lives in a seaside town in southern Australia, where she juggles writing, reading, working and raising two gorgeous sons with the support of her own real-life hero!

Recent books by the same author:

SINGLE DAD’S TRIPLE TROUBLE
THE MOST MAGICAL GIFT OF ALL
HER BROODING HEART SURGEON
MIRACLE: TWIN BABIES

Dedication

To Sandra,
with many thanks for keeping us neat and tidy!

CHAPTER ONE

F
EMALE SURGEON TAKES
B
AMPTON AWARD

Ms Stanfield’s meteoric rise in the male-dominated field of surgery was recognised last week. Journal’s ‘on the ground’ photographer snapped Ms Stanfield wearing last season’s black suit (right), and we’re left wondering if rather than taking the ‘Old Boys’ Club’ by storm she’s actually joined it. Rumour has it she’s in negotiations with two prestigious hospitals for Chief of Surgery.

P
OPPY
S
TANFIELD’S
6:00 a.m. sip of Saturday coffee turned bitter in her mouth as she read the five-line article on the back page of the Perth newspaper. She didn’t give a damn about the bitchy comment on her cinch-waisted black suit but how the hell had the gossip columnist found out about the job interviews? One job interview especially—the one she’d very carefully and deliberately kept quiet because it was hard enough being female in this business, let alone having the temerity to want a top job. A top job she was determined to get one way or another, which was why she’d applied
for the post of Chief of Surgery at Southgate as well as Perth City, the hospital she currently worked for.

And now ‘one way’ was her only remaining option.

Her disappointed gaze caught sight of the envelope with the Southgate crest that had arrived yesterday containing a letter with the words ‘unsuccessful candidate’. She hadn’t read past them because there’d been no point. Poppy Stanfield didn’t lose, she just regrouped and planned a new strategy. It would have been a huge coup to land the Southgate job ahead of the Perth City one, but the interview panel had been hostile from the moment she’d walked in.

The Bampton win had ruffled more than a few feathers in surgical ranks, and the media attention had been unexpected. The memory of the ditzy and pen-less journalist, with hair flying, who’d arrived late to interview her, sent a sliver of irritation down her spine. Poppy reread the article and the bald, incriminating words. Hell, why hadn’t she spent more time with the journalist instead of rushing through the interview?

The faint echo of mocking laughter sounded deep down inside her.
You spend all your time at work and when have you ever really spent time with anyone?

Steven.

Her phone chirped loudly, making her jump. Given it was 6:00 a.m., the call was most likely the hospital needing her for an urgent consult and absolutely nothing to do with this tiny article buried in the centre of the paper. Yes, an emergency consult would be the best scenario. The worst scenario would be—
Stop right there.
She refused to contemplate the worst scenario, but still she checked the screen before answering it.

She groaned into her hand. The name of the hospital’s executive medical officer and her current boss
blinked at her in inky and unforgiving black.
Damage control.
Tilting her head back and bringing her chin up, she answered the call with a firm, crisp greeting. ‘Hello, William.’

‘Poppy.’ The professor spoke her name as if it pained his tongue to roll over the combination of letters. ‘I’ve just seen the paper.’

Show no weakness.
‘You must be pleased.’ She ignored the vividly clear picture of him in her mind—tight face and stern mouth—the way he always looked when he believed a staff member had let him down. She infused her voice with enthusiasm. ‘It was an excellent article about your groundbreaking in utero surgery.’

‘It was, and surprisingly accurate, but that’s not the article I’m referring to.’

No way was she admitting to anything so she let the deliberate silence ride, biting her lip not to say a word.

William continued. ‘In your thank-you speech at the Bampton awards you said you were committed to Perth City.’

She pushed the Southgate envelope under the paper and out of sight. ‘Absolutely. City’s given me every opportunity.’ The words of her speech flowed out smoothly, in stark contrast to the reality, which had involved her fighting to get into the surgery programme, working harder and longer hours than her male counterparts and ignoring the advice that surgery took beautiful young women and turned them into ugly old ones. She’d stopped thinking of herself as a woman long ago and with it had gone the dream of marriage and a family of her own. ‘Should the board see fit, it would be an honour to serve as the Chief of Surgery.’

‘An honour?’

His tone bristled with sarcasm, which Poppy ignored. ‘Yes, indeed, and as I outlined in my interview with the board, I can start immediately and provide a seamless transition period before Gareth leaves for Brisbane.’

‘The board’s still deliberating on the best person for the position.’ His voice dripped with disapproval. ‘But I’m reassured by your commitment to the hospital, and by knowing how much of an honour you consider it to be working for the WA Healthcare Network.’

She let go of a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding. ‘Excellent.’

‘So it stands to reason that you were the
first
person we thought of when Bundallagong Hospital requested a visiting surgeon.’

‘Excuse me?’ Of all the possible things she might have anticipated him saying, that wasn’t one of them.

‘Bundallagong Hospital.’ William repeated the name slowly, a hint of humour skating along the cool steel of his voice, as if he was party to a private joke.

Her brain stalled, trying to think why the name of the town was vaguely familiar, and with a start she frantically flicked the pages of the paper open until she found the weather map. Her gasp of surprise was too quick for her mouth to stifle. ‘But that’s fifteen hundred kilometres away!’

‘Or nine hundred and thirty-two miles, which is why they need a visiting surgeon for three months.’

Years of well-honed control started to unravel. ‘William, this is ridiculous. Sending me out into the boonies is only going to make the day-to-day running at City even tighter than it is.’ ‘We’ve allowed for that.’

Her stomach clenched at his terse tone. ‘We’ve been
chasing staff for over a year and what? Now you’ve just pulled a surgeon out of a hat?’

‘One of the east coast applicants will fill your position while you’re away.’

The staccato delivery of his words shot down the line like gunfire and she rocked back as if she’d been hit. The board was deliberately sending her away so they could observe her opposition in action without her being around to counteract any fallout. Incandescent fury flowed through her. ‘And let me guess, that surgeon would be male.’

A sharp intake of breath sounded down the line. ‘Poppy, you know I can’t disclose information like that. Besides, as you’ve always pointed out, gender is irrelevant and it’s all about expertise.’

He’d used her words against her to suit his own ends.

‘Let’s just be totally honest, shall we, William? You’re seriously ticked off that I applied to Southgate and now you’re punishing me for doing what any other surgeon in my position would have done.’

‘Now you’re being irrational, which isn’t like you at all. Go to Bundallagong, Poppy, do your job and let the board do theirs. My secretary will be in touch about flight details but start packing because you’re leaving tomorrow.’

The phone line suddenly buzzed and she realised he’d hung up on her. Blind anger tore through her and she shredded the newspaper, venting unprintable expletives at the journalist, William, the hospital and the system in general. Who the hell was this interloper from the east coast? She had contacts and she’d find out because learning about the enemy was a vital part of the strategy of winning.

But as the final strips of paper floated to the floor, her anger faded almost as fast as it had come and uncharacteristic tears of frustration and devastation pricked her eyes. Suddenly she was whipped back in time to when she had been a gangly ten-year-old girl valiantly trying to hold back tears after a drubbing in the first set of a tennis final, one of the few matches her father had actually turned up to watch.

He’d crossed his arms and stared down at her, his expression filled with derision.
‘Don’t be such a girl. Do you think boys cry? They don’t. They just go out there and win.’

Shaking her head as if that would get rid of the memory, she stomped into her bedroom and hauled a suitcase out of the wardrobe. If Bundallagong Hospital needed a surgeon then, by God, they were getting one, and the staff there wouldn’t know what had hit them. She’d clear the waiting list, reorganise the department, overhaul the budget, meet every target and make William and the board sit up and take notice. Nobody put Poppy Stanfield in a corner.

Dr Matt Albright was on an island beach. The balmy tropical breeze skimmed over his sun-warmed skin and a book lay face-down on his naked chest, resting in the same position it had been for the last half-hour. ‘Daddy, watch me!’

He waved to his daughter as she played in the shallow and virtually waveless water, then he rolled onto his side towards his wife, who lay next to him, reading. At that precise moment he knew his life was perfect in every way.

She glanced up and smiled in her quiet and unassuming way.

He grinned. ‘You do realise I’ve loved you from the moment you hit me with play dough at kinder.’

Her tinkling laughter circled him and he leaned in to kiss her, knowing her mouth as intimately as his own. He reached out to curve his hand around her shoulder, trying to pull her closer, but his fingers closed in on themselves, digging into his palm. He tried again, this time cupping her cheeks, but they vanished the moment he tried to touch them.

‘Daddy!’

He turned towards his daughter’s voice and saw her evaporating, along with the water that tore all the sand from the beach. Panic bubbled hot and hard in his veins and he sat up fast, hearing the sound of his voice screaming ‘No!’

His eyes flew open into darkness, his heart thundering against his ribs and sweat pouring down his face. His hands gripped something so hard they ached and he realised his fingers were digging deep into the edge of the mattress. He wasn’t on a beach.

He was in a bed.

Slowly his eyes focused and he recognised the silhouette of his wardrobe, and he heard the thumping and scratching of the goanna that had at some point in the last few months, without any protest from him, moved into the roof.

Bundallagong. He was in Bundallagong.

He fell back onto the pillow and stared blindly up at the ceiling. His heart rate slowed and the tightness in his chest eased and for one brief and blessed moment he felt nothing at all. Then the ever-present emptiness, which the dream had momentarily absorbed, rushed back in. It expanded wide and long, filling every crevice, every cell and tainting every single breath.

Sleep was over. He swung his legs out of bed, walked into the lounge room, stared out into the night, and waited for the dawn.

‘And how long have you had this pain, Sam?’ Poppy pulled the modesty sheet back over the young man’s abdomen.

He shrugged. ‘Dunno. I think I saw Dr Albright about a month ago but then it just went away.’ ‘And is today’s pain worse than a month ago?’

‘A lot.’

‘The nurse tells me you’ve been vomiting?’ ‘Yeah, sorry about that.’

Poppy tried not to smile. Dressed in tough mining workwear, and looking like not even a bullet could take him down, Sam’s politeness and air of bewilderment reminded her of a young boy rather than a strapping and fit man of twenty.

‘I’ll be back in a bit, Sam.’ Poppy pulled the screen curtains shut behind her as she stepped out into the compact emergency department, running the symptoms through her head—fever, high white blood cell count, rebound tenderness and an ultrasound that showed nothing unusual, although that in itself wasn’t unusual. The process of diagnosis soothed her like the action of a soothing balm and she relaxed into the feeling.

The shock of landing two hours ago on the Marsscape that was Bundallagong still had her reeling. The green of the river-hugging suburbs of Perth had not prepared her for the barrenness of the Pilbara. When she’d exited the plane, her feet had stuck mutinously to the roll-away airport stairs as her gaze had taken in the flat, red dust plains that stretched to the horizon
in three directions. Then the ferocious dripping heat had hit her like an impenetrable wall and it had been like walking into a raging furnace with an aftershock of wet, cloying steam. The irony wasn’t lost on her—William had sent her to hell.

The only way to reduce her ‘sentence’ was to start work so she’d asked the taxi driver to take her directly to the hospital. The fact it was a Sunday afternoon mattered little because the sooner she started her rotation, the sooner she could finish. She’d planned to spend a couple of hours studying medical histories and drawing up her first week’s surgical list but as she’d arrived, so had Sam. The nurse on duty had happily accepted her offer of help with a smile, saying, ‘Thanks heaps. It’ll give the on-call doctor a break.’

Now Poppy walked briskly to the nurses’ station and dropped the history in front of Jen Smithers, whose badge read ‘Nursing Administrator’. ‘Sam’s got appendicitis so if you can arrange everything, I’ll meet him in Theatre in an hour.’

The nurse, who Poppy guessed was of a similar age to her, looked up, a startled expression on her face. ‘So it’s an emergency case?’

‘Not strictly, but he’ll be better off without his appendix and there’s no time like the present.’

‘Ah.’ Jen spun a pen through her fingers, as if considering her thoughts.

Poppy rarely took no for an answer and the ‘Ah’ sounded ominous. She made a snap decision: she needed the nursing staff on her side but she also needed to show she was the one in charge of the team. ‘Jen, I call a spade a spade and I don’t play games. I’ll be straight with you and you need to be straight with me.
I want to operate on Sam this afternoon and I expect you to do your job so I can do mine.’

Jen nodded, her demeanour friendly yet professional. ‘Fair enough. I can get nursing staff in to staff Theatre and Recovery, but that isn’t going to be enough. It’s the anaesthetic registrar’s weekend off and he’s not due back from Bali until this evening’s flight.’

BOOK: Career Girl in the Country / The Doctor's Reason to Stay
11.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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