Weeks away from giving birth, Dr. Meredith Dennison finds herself with no husband and few funds. Retreating to Shearwater Island, she just wants to hide from the world…until she meets her gorgeous, caring neighbor, multimillionaire Raf Camilleri. Meredith is the last woman Raf should fall for. He's no more ready for her and newborn baby Zoe than Meredith is for him! But they so need his support, and their tender pull makes it impossible for Raf to stay away…
Why I Wrote the Book
I've wanted to write Meredith and Raf's story for a very long time so I'm thrilled my editor fell in love with the idea as much as I did. Many years ago I remember seeing a news bulletin of a police officer gunned down in his line of duty and his very pregnant wife being supported at the funeral by her family. She was pregnant with their first child. It was a tragedy on so many levels; the loss of a good man, the destruction of so many dreams, a child who would never meet his father. I kept asking myself, how does a person recover from a loss like this? It sewed the seed for the story. How does a woman cope with her own grief and that of her in-laws? How does she deal with the guilt of still being alive? This is a very real story but with many uplifting moments and I hope you enjoy it. It's set on an island and the sea plays a big role so check out the Pinterest page.
A Daddy for Baby Zoe?
Excerpt From Chapter One
DR MEREDITH DENNISON’S hands were tied behind her back, and her head was deep down in a large bucket, leaving her face millimetres from water as she tried to get her mouth around one of the many bobbing silicone babies’ teats. The laughter of her colleagues filled her ears—she was going to kill them. They’d cheerfully ambushed her with a surprise baby shower, which had been a generous and appreciated idea, although she could have done without the party games.
‘Come on, Merry, just grab one with your teeth,’ Olivia, the receptionist, encouraged, her voice full of glee.
‘I’ve got dinner at Le Goût with Richard’s parents at seven,’ she said rising slightly. ‘I can’t go with wet hair. The snooty maître d’ won’t let me in.’
‘You’ve got plenty of time to restyle your hair,’ Emma, her good friend and fellow GP, said firmly. ‘Besides, you want your presents, don’t you?’
‘This is extortion,’ she replied indignantly, her breath making the water ripple.
‘Sure, but it’s fun.’ Emma’s tinkling laugh rained down on her. ‘Consider it payback for the humiliations you made me suffer at my hens’ night.’
Meredith turned her head sideways to see her friend. ‘Having a hunk of a male stripper making a fuss of you is a lot different from half drowning me.’
Emma rolled her eyes. ‘It may have been different if I hadn’t treated him the week before for a sexually transmitted infection. Instead of admiring his ripped muscles, I kept seeing his path report and going Ewww.’
‘Granted, that was unfortunate but, as I’ve said at least one thousand times since, I didn’t know he was a clinic patient.’
Emma crossed her arms, her eyes twinkling. ‘Stop stalling.’
Meredith felt a firm kick under her ribs and sighed. Even her unborn child was telling her to get on with it. Sucking in a deep breath of air, she lined up a bobbing teat, bared her teeth and dived. Two seconds later and with dripping wet hair, she raised her head triumphantly, the teat firmly clenched between her lips.
Her colleagues cheered. The baby kicked again as if to say, Go, Mum. Laughing, Meredith spat out the teat. ‘Wait until I tell Richard I was all tied up and he missed it.’
‘When he gets home from his week of snowboarding in the back country he won’t care,’ Emma said. ‘He’ll just want a hot shower, clean sheets and lovely, waddly you.’
‘Hey, I don’t waddle.’
Emma laughed again. ‘If you say so.’
Meredith accepted the proffered towel from Olivia. ‘I asked Richard if I waddled and he said I’m the sexiest pregnant woman he’s ever seen.’
Lee Ng, the clinic’s physiotherapist, sighed, the sound loaded with experience. ‘If he wants an easy life, he’d be a fool to say anything else.’
‘Damn, straight.’ Meredith smiled and hugged Richard’s loving words to herself.
She’d been waiting a long time for this baby—waiting while she and Richard completed their fellowships, waiting while Richard established himself as one of the top trauma surgeons in Melbourne and now, finally, her long-held dream to be a mother was almost here. In a few weeks they’d welcome their baby into the world and as far as she was concerned it couldn’t come fast enough. They were going to be parents—a team at last—and she couldn’t wait to see Richard as a father.
There had been a few worrying months a year and a half ago when she’d despaired that Richard was never going to be ready for fatherhood. He worked long hours as a surgeon and he’d told her he didn’t want to have any more demands put on his time. Any precious spare time he had he spent in the great outdoors, unwinding and re-energising. As much as she loved joining him in his outdoor adventures, she’d craved motherhood more. Just when she had really started to worry he would never change his mind, he’d surprised her. Last year, on his return from trekking in Nepal, he’d swept her into his arms and told her he was ready. The ease with which she’d got pregnant had delighted them both.
With the physical demands of pregnancy on her body, her life had instantly changed with the nausea and cloying fatigue in the early weeks, thankfully followed by the energy and wonder of feeling the baby move. Richard’s life had stayed much the same and he’d continued to work hard and play hard. She’d buried any niggling concerns she had that he wouldn’t be the hands-on father she hoped for because right now there was no need for him to change a thing. After all, the baby wasn’t here yet so why shouldn’t he go hiking and kayaking and do all the things he loved just because she was too big now to join him?
There was no rational reason at all but that didn’t stop irrational reasons booming in her head. All she wanted was one free weekend so they could paint the nursery together. Perhaps he’d sensed her disquiet or finally the reason behind her burgeoning belly had registered in his brain as baby coming. Either way, last week as he’d packed his gear for his alpine snowboarding trip, he’d tucked her hair behind her ears, kissed her on the forehead and told her this was his last recreational trip away until the baby was a few months old. Next weekend—medical emergencies excepted—they were painting the nursery together. She felt dizzy with excitement.
Having towelled her hair dry, she grinned and tossed the damp towel into the hamper. ‘So, Emma, did I hear you say presents?’
Raf Camilleri stood in the kitchen, immune to the lulling sound of foaming waves rolling rhythmically onto the beach. With his chest heaving, he was trying to gulp down water and quench his ragged thirst while he waited for his blood to pump out of his legs and back to his brain. Running along the white, sandy beaches of Shearwater Island was completely different from pounding the concrete pavements of Melbourne and his calves reminded him of that every day. After draining the water bottle, he pressed the palms of his hands against the island bench and lowered his heels to the floor, welcoming the burning stretch of his Achilles tendons. It was a case of the pleasure of the pain—without it he’d end up a lot sorer.
‘I am.’ Raf swung his head sideways, glancing under his arm towards the familiar male voice. He caught sight of his father’s orthotic shoes—shoes Mario Camilleri hated, shoes Raf laced up for him each morning—and he was reminded, not just by his burning calves, that both his and his father’s lives had changed.
‘So,’ Mario said, his voice tinged with a hint of an Italian accent, ‘now you can drive me to the club.’
It wasn’t a question—more of a demand, really. Mario didn’t do questions when it came to him wanting or needing something. He just issued instructions as if he was still the captain of his fishing boat. Still the captain of his life.
Raf tensed, the rush of relaxation from his run taking a solid hit, but he stayed stretching. ‘I thought we’d have dinner first. I bought some calamari straight off the boat at the co-op.’ He stopped short of saying, because it’s your favourite.
‘I’ll eat at the club.’ The terse words chopped through the air.
I’ll eat at the club, not we’ll eat at the club. Okay, then. No ambiguity there. It wasn’t an out-and-out surprise to Raf that he wasn’t invited and part of him recognised that his father wished to spend time with his buddies like he’d always done, but just one night, an invitation to join him at the fishermen’s club, might be nice.
Really? You’ve got as much in common with your father’s mates as a steak at a vegetarian’s picnic.
Raf straightened up and glanced at his father but Mario ducked his gaze. Once father and son had been the same height but since Mario’s stroke, Raf was now the taller. ‘It would have been helpful if you’d mentioned your plans to me this morning,’ he said, pitching for a light tone.
Mario shrugged. ‘Freeze the calamari.’
His temper sparked. ‘Jeez, Dad, you’ve never eaten frozen seafood in your life.’
Mario’s brown eyes flashed in his jowly face. ‘Maybe I want to start. You’re not my keeper, Rafael.’
‘No.’ He deliberately closed his mouth hard to prevent himself from saying anything more. He wasn’t his father’s keeper but right now he was his carer. A job fraught with more unexploded mines than the fields of Cambodia. It made the taking of his medical IT company public and its subsequent sale look like a walk in the park. ‘Do I get to take a shower first?’ he asked, hating that he sounded like the petulant teenager he’d been twenty-three years ago.
‘Suit yourself. I told them I’d be there at six.’ Mario’s four-pronged cane thumped against the faded linoleum as he turned towards the door that led to the living room.
As Raf made his way to the bathroom, he heard the blare of the television and the sounds of a soccer game. Situation normal. It was just another happy day at Casa Camilleri.
Meredith checked her watch. Damn it, she was going to be late. Again. It had taken longer than anticipated to open all the lovely presents her colleagues had showered her with, including the cutest selection of baby clothes and the generous gift of a baby car seat. Lee and Emma had helped her load everything into the car and she’d raced home in an attempt to rescue her hair. It had been a bad move because now there was no way she was going to be able to fight her way down Brunswick Street with its heavy traffic and trams and arrive at Le Goût on time.
Although Richard had carte blanche with his parents to arrive late, that courtesy wasn’t as easily afforded to Meredith. As her mother-in-law Linda often said, surely, as a GP in an inner-city practice with six large hospitals in a five-kilometre radius, most emergency patients bypassed the clinic.
They did and, truth be told, most days Meredith ran late at the clinic because she didn’t want to rush her patients. At home she ran late because even though she and Richard had a cleaner come in once a week, the bulk of the domestic tasks fell to her. Raised on a dairy farm, where either the cows or the farm machinery had the uncanny knack of causing chaos at inopportune moments, she’d come to believe that being ten minutes late was considered on time. Linda wasn’t of the same opinion. Meredith knew the look that would dart across the restaurant at her as she walked in late—the one that said Richard could have done better.
She sighed. Stop it. It didn’t matter that she hadn’t gone to one of Melbourne’s elite private schools or that she hadn’t studied medicine at Melbourne University. It was Linda’s issue, not hers, and to keep the peace she hadn’t objected when Linda had mentioned she already had the enrolment forms for Melbourne Grammar on her desk and that Derek, her father-in-law, had the application form for the Melbourne Cricket Club on his. Both were ready to be lodged the moment the sex and the name of the baby were announced.
As far as Meredith was concerned, she and Richard had years ahead of them before they had to worry about schools. The baby kicked again and she put her hand on the foot that kept digging her in the ribs. ‘You telling me you’re starting to feel squished in there, Sprocket? Sorry, but I need you to stay put for another six weeks.’
Feeling the cloying tendrils of fatigue starting to pull at her, she didn’t dare sit down to put on her shoes in case she gave in and didn’t stand up again. As much as she appreciated Linda and Derek insisting that Richard’s absence was no reason for them to cancel dinner plans, the idea of slumping on the couch and eating a green curry from the Thai takeaway down the road was very appealing. ‘Come on, Merry, you can do this,’ she told herself as she took one final glance in the mirror—lipstick on, hair mostly under control, clean black dress. ‘You’ll do.’
She picked her keys up from the key dish and then remembered her phone was resting on the charger. She doubled back to the kitchen to retrieve it and as she picked it up, the doorbell rang. Her heart skipped in delight. Despite Richard being adamant he couldn’t cut a day off the snow trip and that he’d be home tomorrow night, he’d known that she and his parents had been disappointed he was missing this long-anticipated dinner at the popular restaurant. Turning up unannounced and making it to dinner after all was just the sort of surprise Richard would pull.
She slipped her phone into her handbag and rushed back to the front door, letting her excitement take control. Oh, how she wanted to find Richard on the other side and not a power company or a cable television salesperson. Turning the deadlock and the door handle in tandem, she opened the door. Neither Richard nor a sales person stood on the tiny veranda of her inner-city terrace house. Disappointment sank through her like a stone.
‘Dr Dennison?’ a young police officer asked quietly, her expression serious.
‘Yes.’ She was used to the police ringing her doorbell, given that out of all her colleagues she lived the closest to the clinic and the police station. If there were any out-of-hours problems with the clinic security system or if there was a break-in, the police knocked on her door. She instantly thought that Olivia had probably drunk one glass of champagne too many at the baby shower. ‘Did Olivia set off the alarm system when she was locking up?’
The policewoman shot a confused glance at her male partner. His shoulders rose almost imperceptibly. The policewoman looked back at her. ‘May we come in?’
Come in? She checked her watch again. ‘I’m already running really late for dinner so how about we go straight to the clinic and I’ll override the security, okay?’
The policewoman shook her head slowly. ‘We’re not here about a security system, Dr Dennison.’
‘Oh?’ She stared at the officers in their distinctive blue uniforms with all the necessary accoutrements from holstered guns to radios. Her brain snagged on the motto, Tenez le droit. Why French? With a shake of her head she marshalled her thoughts. ‘Why are you here?’
‘Please, may we come in?’
Had she forgotten to pay her speeding fine last month? Did they send the police to your door for that sort of thing? She automatically stood back from the doorway to allow the officers access and they crossed the threshold before standing uneasily in her living room. She was struck by how their black heavy-duty work boots seemed glued to her polished Baltic pine floorboards.
‘Is this going to take long because if it is I really should call my in-laws and let them know I’ll be even later for dinner than I already am.’
The officers sat down. ‘Can you please sit down?’
For the first time, confusion gave way to something akin to fear and like an obedient child she sat. ‘What’s going on?’
From "A Daddy for Baby Zoe? by Fiona Lowe
Mills and Boon Medical Romance January 2016
ISBN: 978-0-263-254228 Copyright: © 2016 Fiona Lowe
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information surf to: http://www.millsandboon.com.au