Authors: Marion Lennox
“Em, there's no need for you to look like you're being asked to commit for life here. We're old enough to know we can take pleasure where we find it.”
“And walk away afterward?”
“Except it doesn't work like that,” Em told him sadly. “Like me and Robby.”
“I don't understand,” Jonas said.
“I thought I could just love Robby for a little bit, so I let myself become involved. And the longer it goes on, the more it'll tear my heart out when he leaves.”
“You could adopt Robby.”
“Oh, yes?” she jeered. “How could I do that when I'm on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. What sort of mother would I make?”
“I think you'd make a fine one.”
Families in the making!
In the orphanage of a small Australian seaside town called Bay Beach there are little children desperately in need of love. Some of them have no parents, some are simply unwantedâbut each child dreams about having their own family somedayâ¦.
The answer to their dreams can also be found in Bay Beach! Couples who are destined for each otherâeven if they don't know it yetâare brought together by love for these tiny children. Can they find true love themselvesâand finally become a real family?
Previous books in the PARENTS WANTED miniseries by RITA nominated author Marion Lennox in Harlequin Romance
A Child in Need
Their Baby Bargain
This book is dedicated to all women with breast cancer
whose past involvement in research and clinical trials
has so improved our chances of survival today.
had been awake all night, delivering twins. She was probably asleep and dreaming, but right in her waiting room wasâ¦
Her ideal man!
Bay Beach. She
in the middle of morning surgery, and staring was hardly professional. Instant marriage wasn't on the cards either. So somehow she forced herself back to being a twenty-nine-year-old country doctor instead of a lovesick teenager staring at a total stranger.
The elderly Mrs Robin rose with relief. She'd been waiting far too long. Every other patient looked at her with envy, and the stranger looked up as well.
Whew! He was even more good-looking eye to eye, and when their gazes lockedâ¦
For a moment, Em allowed herself to keep looking. Doctor assessing potential patient.
Ha! There was nothing professional in the way she was looking at this man.
For a start, he was large, in a strong-boned, muscular, six-feet-of-virile-male sort of way. Then he had the most gorgeous, burnt-red hair, crinkling into curls that were a bit unruly, and made you just want to run your fingersâ¦
âThat's enough of that! Concentrate on work!' she told herself sharply. The last thing she needed this morning was distraction, and if a pair of twinkling green eyes had
the capacity to knock her sideways then maybe she was even more tired than she'd thought.
âI'm very sorry,' she told the rest of the waiting room, the stranger included. âBut I've had a couple of emergencies. I'm running almost an hour late. If anyone would like to sit on the beach and come back in a whileâ¦'
It wasn't likely. These people were farmers or fishermen, and a visit to the doctor was a social occasion. They'd sit placidly enough, outwardly reading magazines but in reality soaking up every piece of gossip they could get.
Such as who the redhead was.
And she might have known they'd find out.
âHe's Anna Lunn's big brother,' Mrs Robin told her before she even started on her litany of ills. âHe's three years older than Anna, and his name's Jonas. Ooh, isn't he lovely? When he came in with Anna, I thought maybe she had a new fella, and that wouldn't hurt at all since that no-good Kevin walked out. But if this can't be her new man, then it's good that she has a brother kind enough to bring her to the doctor's, don't you think?'
Yes. It was. Anna Lunn was barely thirty, yet already weighed down with poverty and kids. But whyâ¦Em glanced down her list and saw the appointment, and she couldn't suppress her misgivings.
Anna had made a special appointment and she'd brought her brother along for support. Em just knew this wasn't going to be a five-minute consultation for a pap smear.
But there was little point in worrying about it now. With an inward sigh she mentally added another half-hour to her day and turned her attention to Mrs Robin's blood pressure.
Charlie Henderson collapsed before she'd finished. Booked in for his regular coronary check, the fisherman was so old that he looked shrivelled and preserved for ever. He'd tucked himself into a corner of the waiting room and had been contentedly observing the kids and chaos and general confusion. Now, just as Em started writing Mrs Robins's prescription, his eyes rolled in his head, he crumpled and slid soundlessly onto the floor.
âEm!' Her receptionist was banging on Em's door before he hit the carpet, and Em was by his side almost as fast.
The old man was deathly white, cold and clammy. Em did a fast check of his airway and found no obstruction.
And she found no pulse.
âGet the crash cart,' she snapped at Amy. She gave Charlie four deep breaths and ripped his shirt wide to bare his chest. There was no time for niceties here. and there was no time to move him. This looked like total cardiac arrest.
And Amy wasn't her usual receptionist. Lou was off sick. Amy was standing in and, at eighteen, she had no medical training at all.
Em was on her own.
She could only try, and she must try now. To attempt resuscitation with all these people watching was dreadful, but there was no time for anything else.
âCould you clear the room?' she demanded between breaths, not looking up from what she was doing, and not even hopeful that anybody would listen. She couldn't care. She was breathing for her old friend, pumping down on his chest in an attempt at cardiopulmonary resuscitation as she waited for the crash cart.
And then, from aboveâ¦
âCould you all move outside? Now!' It was a male voice, backing up her order with harsh authority.
Em blinked, wondering who the voice belonged to. It was rich and deep and seemed accustomed to command, but she was kneeling on the floor beside the old man and her attention was totally with him.
Breatheâ¦ Please, Charlie, breatheâ¦
âAs you see, this is an emergency and we need room to work,' the voice continued. âIf your need's not urgent, can you make an appointment later. Otherwise wait outside. Now!'
And then suddenly, magically, Red-Hair was kneeling on the other side of Charlie. The crash cart was beside them and she had someone placing jelly on the paddles as if he'd done it countless times before. As she rolled Charlie onto his back, he helped adjust himâjust as if he knew what he was doing.
Who on earth was he?
There was no time to ask. All she could do was move with him, fitting a proper mouthpiece now the trolley was here. Normally she wouldn't have tried to breathe into a patient without a mouthpiece, but Charlie was special. Charlie was her friend.
She had to stay professional. There was no room for emotion if they were to save the old man's life. With the mouthpiece fitted, she gave him four more quick breaths, then the deep voice cut in.
âMove back. Now.'
He shifted away. She did too, and then it was the stranger's hands that fitted the paddles over Charlie's bare chest. He knew exactly what he was doing, and she could only be thankful.
The charge hit and Charlie's body jerked in convulsion. Nothing. They both stared at the trace. It showed no heart activity at all.
They must keep trying! Em gave him four more deep breaths. Thenâ¦
The stranger's hands brought the paddles down once more. A jerkâyet still the trace showed nothing.
She breathed for the old man again. Over and over. Still nothing.
And finally Em sat back on her heels and closed her eyes. âEnough,' she whispered. âHe's gone.'
There was absolute silence.
Amy, standing behind them in white-faced horror, drew in her breath and started to cry, her tears streaming silently down her face. She was too young for this, Em thought wearily. And, aged all of twenty-nine, Em felt suddenly far too old. She rose stiffly to her feet and crossed to give her receptionist a hug.
âCome on, Amy. This is OK. Charlie wouldn't have wanted it any other way.'
That, at least, was the truth. Charlie lived and breathed for Bay Beach gossip. He was eighty-nine, he'd known he'd had a dicky heart for years, and to go out dramatically in the doctor's waiting room, rather than by himself at home, was just the sort of ending he'd think fitting.
âRing Sarah Bond, Amy,' Em said wearily, as Amy sniffed and tried to pull herself together. âSarah's Charlie's niece. Tell her what's happened. She won't be too surprised. And then could you ring the undertaker?'
Finally she took a deep breath and looked up at the man who'd been helping her.
âThank you,' she said simply, and something in her face must have betrayed her exhaustion and emotion because
the man swore softly. He crossed the distance dividing them to stand before her, and placed a pair of strong, male hands on her shoulders.
âHell. You're done in.'
âYou were fond of Charlie?'
âYes,' she said. âEveryone's fond of Charlie. He's been a Bay Beach fisherman all his life.' She looked uncertainly down at Charlie's body. They'd closed his eyes, his body had gone limp and he looked incredibly peaceful. Asleep. This was death as it should be.
She shouldn't mourn, butâ¦ âI've known him for ever,' she whispered. âHe taught me to fish when I was five years old. He taught me to swim and he taught meâ¦so much else. So much about the ocean and about enjoying what I had. So much about life.' With that, her rigid control broke, and her voice broke with it.
âYou need time to recover.' He looked outside where there were still half a dozen patients who'd decided they were urgent enough to wait. He could see that as soon as Em had spoken to Charlie's niece and the undertaker had taken Charlie away, this overworked doctor had yet more work to do. âDo you have anyone else to take over?'
That reached her. Em took a deep breath and fought for resumption of normality. âNo.'
âThen I will,' he told her calmly. âI'm a surgeon. This sort of medicine may be unfamiliar territory, but I can cope with urgent cases while you get your breath back.'
âYou're a surgeon?' Her voice was incredulous. She knew he must have medical trainingâthe full implications just hadn't sunk home until now. âAnna Lunn's brother is a surgeon?'
Anna didn't have a cent to her name. This wasn't making sense.
âI'm a surgeon all the time,' he told her. âI'm only Anna Lunn's brother when I'm allowed to be.' He gave a short, harsh laugh, and then pushed away whatever it was that bothered him. âBut my problems can wait. I can certainly see your patients and deal with anything urgent. Let's get Charlie sent off with dignity, and then take time for a cup of coffee. The only thing isâ¦'
He hesitated. âIt's taken me weeks to bully my sister to come and see you,' he said, and the reluctance to give her more work was plainly written on his face. âWe had to leave her children in emergency child care at the Bay Beach Homes while she came to see you. It's almost been like a military operation to get her here, and if I let her go home now I won't get her back. Will you see her?'
âOf course I will.'
âThere's no “of course” about it,' he said. âIf you do, it's on the condition that I look after your urgent cases after that.'
âThere's no need.'
âThere is a need.'
He looked at her more closely then, and Em wondered just what he was seeing. She was pale at the best of times, tall, over-thin from skipping too many meals or eating on the run, and her slimness was accentuated by her long dark hair braided down her back.
Normally braiding her hair back from her face suited her, but she was aware that fatigue had created shadows under her brown eyes and made her finely boned face look etched with strain. Her colourful print dress, one of several that she wore almost as her uniform, now only accentuated her pallor.
And, yes, he could see her exhaustion. His next words confirmed it. âDon't you have any help at all?' he asked explosively, and she spread her hands in a negative.
âWhy the hell not?' he demanded. âSurely Bay Beach is big enough for two doctorsâor even three?'
âI was born here and I love it,' she said simply. âBut there are lots of lovely little coastal towns in Australia for doctors to choose from, and most of them aren't as far from the city as this. Doctors want restaurants and private schools and universities for their children. We've been advertising since my last partner left two years ago. We haven't had a single response.'
âSo you're it.'
âIt's not so bad.' She ran a hand over the smooth silkiness of her braid and sighed as she looked down at Charlie. âExcept sometimes. Except now. I'm so glad you were hereâso I know that there was nothing else that could have been done to save my friend.'
âI can see that.' He, too, looked down at Charlie's limp body. âDamn.'
âIt was time for him to die,' she said softly.
âLike it's time for you to go to sleep.'
âNope.' Another weary sigh. Then Em pulled herself together, and her usually laughing eyes managed a smile. âThere's no rest for the wicked, Dr Lunn,' she told him. âOr should that be Mr Lunn?'
âMake that Jonas.'
It sounded nice, she thought. Right. âOK, Jonas,' she agreed. The undertaker was pulling up outside. âLet's say our goodbyes to Charlie and then I'll get on with my morning's work.'
âYou heard what I said,' he growled. âYou see my sister, and then I'll take over until you've had a rest.'
The temptation was almost overwhelming. She had two patients in hospital who she really should be with now. If she left Dr LunnâJonasâwith the surgery, she could see them, have breakfast-cum-lunch and maybe even have a nap before afternoon clinic.
âDo it,' he said, and she could hardly resist. Heavens!
But to hand over her work to a stranger was totally irresponsible.
âI'm fully qualified,' he told her, sensing her last qualm. âA quick phone call to Sydney Central will confirm it. I promise.'
She believed him and it was good to resist any further. âIt sounds wonderful,' she admitted. âYou're on. But, first, let's see your sister.'
âShe won't tell me what the trouble is, but she's scared stiff.'
Half an hour later Em was back by her desk. What had happened seemed unreal. But before her sat Anna Lunn, pale-faced and silent. Gripping her hand, as if willing strength into her, Jonas looked almost as grim.
âI don't know what's going on, Dr Mainwaring,' he told Em, and she cast him a quick glance. He'd turned formal. It was a good idea. This had to be purely professional.
âAnna doesn't let me close. She and I went our different ways early, and she's never let me help her, even though bringing up her kids on her own must be a nightmare. But nowâ¦ I came down to see her a couple of weeks ago, and something's scaring her. She won't tell me what. But I know her well enough to realise it's something bad. I've been badgering her by phone from Sydney ever since. Finally I've made her to agree to come and see you.'