City surgeon … single mum
Struggling to adjust to life as a single mother, GP Sarah Rigby is intrigued by her new neighbor, guarded hot-shot surgeon Ryan Harrison. Sarah knows Ryan is struggling to overcome the effects of an accidents, and although deeply hesitant of entering a relationship, she and her young son Sam resolve to show Ryan how to live again.
They’re thrown together to save lives, and the sparing temperatures of the Australian summer mirror the heat fizzing between them until Ryan cannot deny his desire to be part of the family he’s grown to love … or his desire to make Sarah his bride.
To Mum and Dad for their constant love and support.
And to my sister, Sue, for the love and laughs, and for joining me in philosophical ramblings.
Why I Wrote The Book
This book was inspired by an actual event. A doctor who was Chief of his department, married with children and was considered to be living a wonderful, rich and successful life, was hit by a car. From that moment his life and the life of his family was changed forever.
How do you cope with such a life changing event? That was the genesis for my story.
Why did I set it in Queensland? Well, I've always adored the old "Queenslander" homesteads and this way I got to pretend I lived in one!
I hope you enjoy Ryan and Sarah's story as it unfolds against the backdrop of lush, tropical far north Queensland.
The Surgeon's Chosen Wife
Excerpt from Chapter One
Peace at last.
Dr Sarah Rigby pushed her arms out in front of her in a glorious cat-like stretch, spun her wrists in a circle, before leaning back onto the soft leather couch. She breathed a blissful sigh.
The unfamiliar quietness of her house enveloped her. She swung her legs up out onto the three-seater couch and snuggled in. Just as she got comfortable, she spied Sam's roller blades by the door. How had he missed picking them up?
She shook her head knowing how. He'd been too busy body slamming his grandmother in an enthusiastic eight-year-old hug before rushing out the door, excited about his sleep over with Oma and Da.
She should get up and put them away but she was loath to move from her cosy cocoon. A healthy tiredness settled over her. It had been a busy week in Yakkaburra, pretty much the same as every other week.
Reaching over, she grabbed one of the many note pads that littered her life. Uncapping one of Sam's gel pens he'd 'accidentally' missed when packing up the set, she wrote in fluoro sparkly green ink, "Monday, advertise again for a doctor". Tossing the pad and pen back onto the coffee table she lay back and sighed, only this time the sound was pragmatic.
Yakkaburra wasn't Cairns or Brisbane. There were no bright city lights, no funky bars, no four star restaurants. Even the tourist trade was slower here, the backpackers preferring Port Douglas and Mission Beach. Attracting a doctor wasn't easy even though there was loads of medical work. The locals and the grey-power 'Mexicans'- the retirees from the southern part of Australia who came to Queensland each winter for the sunshine - kept Sarah busier than she wanted to be.
She wanted, needed, more time with Sam. She rolled on her side and looked at her photo wall. Staring back at her were a myriad of family pictures and photos of Sam as a bald-headed baby, Sam, the blue-eyed pre-schooler proudly holding his father's hand, and Sam the red-headed schoolboy, excitement alive on his face. He was growing up so fast.
Now she was his only parent.
You were always his only parent. Some of the old tension washed through her. It always did when she thought of David.
Enough, it's your night off. Pushing all difficult thoughts about work and her life to the back of her brain she slid the DVD of her favourite BBC costume drama into the machine. She settled in for four uninterrupted hours of losing herself in the romance of the story. Oh the joy of not having to fight for use of the TV! The snow on the screen was out of step with the Queensland humidity. Instead of snuggling under a rug, Sarah enjoyed the cool evening breeze caressing her warm skin as it wafted in through an open window. The cicada's song chirruped intermittently, breaking the silence of the night.
Sarah sat bolt upright at the crashing sound and tinkling of glass that followed a man's anguished yell. Had it come from next door? Instinctively she grabbed her torch and her medical bag and walked outside. Used to a long line of tenants moving in and out, she'd thought the neighbouring, run-down, Queenslander homestead was currently empty. Long shadows from the coconut and mango trees crisscrossed the garden, and goose bumps rose on her skin. No lights glowed from the windows. Suddenly a mercy dash, all alone, didn't seem like such a great idea.
Get a grip, Sarah. You're a fully qualified doctor. Being rational didn't change the fact that the dark brought out the trembling child within. She dragged in a deep breath and pushed her feet forward.
A silver Mercedes convertible gleamed in the moonlight. Strange. The young itinerant fruit pickers-the ones she always seemed to end up being 'den mother' to- usually had cars barely held together with bailing wire.
Apprehension shimmered along her spine. Perhaps she should have phoned Sergeant Jack before coming out here. She reached for her mobile but her fingers only touched her belt. She straightened her shoulders. She wasn't in Sydney any more. This was small-town Yakkaburra.
She stopped at the base of the stairs, arcing her torch around the huge open space under the house, the light bouncing off the stilts. 'Hello? Is someone hurt?' Her voice sounded far more in control than her thumping heart.
'Inside.' The word came out on a deep masculine groan.
She quickly jogged up the stairs. Crossing the wide veranda, she pushed open the old wooden front door that barely hung straight on its rusty hinges. Faced with a once imposing hall and rooms going off on either side she called out again. 'Where are you?'
'Kitchen.' She heard the pain threaded through his voice.
Ignoring the cobwebs and the fact that this house in the dark looked a lot like Sam's favourite horror movie, the type she refused to watch, she marched purposefully down to the back of the house. She automatically reached for the light switch on the kitchen doorway's architrave.
'There's no point, the bulb's blown.'
She should have jumped in surprise but the deep timbre of his voice reverberated gently through the dark, the sound wrapping around her securely like a warm jacket on a cold night. She took a step into the kitchen and swept the torch across the room. A rickety chair with one leg broken had collapsed on its side and a man lay sprawled on the floor with his back against the wall. He moved his hand to his eyes to shield them from the light.
'Sorry.' Sarah immediately moved the torch and crossed to his side, glass crunching under her feet. 'Where does it hurt?'
'I'm fine.' The words came out short, tense.
Sarah rocked back on her haunches. 'If you're fine you'd be on your feet.' Common sense and caring infused her words.
He let out a ragged sigh. 'It's very kind of you to come and rescue me but I'm a doctor and the most useful thing you can do is fix the light bulb so we can both see and not injure ourselves on broken glass.' He pointed to a supermarket carrier bag on the kitchen table.
In the half dark she couldn't see his face clearly but she recognised the natural authority in his voice. A man used to being in charge. 'Snap.'
'What?' An unravelling of his patience spun through the word.
'Snap. Kids card game where you look for matches. I'm a doctor too and this time you're the patient. However, I agree, light would be good.' She stood up and handed him the torch. 'Here, you shine this so I can see what I'm doing.'
She carefully stood on another chair and stepped up onto the middle of the table. Did it just creak? She moved gingerly. 'Can you move the light over here please.' It seemed to be hovering at hip level.
Reaching up, and more by feel than sight, she connected the bare bulb into the light socket. Cautiously stepping down, she quickly strode to the switch and turned it on. 'Eureka.' Light poured into the room.
She turned to face her patient and stopped short. In the full light she could see all of him - his long legs stretching out in front of him, his broad shoulders pushing against the wall and his polo shirt straining against his chest. A chest which showed all the signs of a man who spent a lot of time lifting weights. Her heart rate picked up, disconcerting her. She hurriedly pulled her gaze away from his sculptured body and took in his face.
Onyx eyes marred by shadows met her stare.
The past rushed back so fast it took her breath away. She'd recognise those eyes anywhere. They'd been a permanent feature of her adolescent dreams. She breathed in deeply trying to regulate her erratic breathing, forcing herself to sound calm and in control. 'Ryan Harrison, welcome home.'
She moved forward, squatting down next to him and extended her hand. 'Sarah Rigby, Yakkaburra High School, we were in the same maths and chemistry class.' Only the chemistry was all one-sided. She kept her gaze fixed firmly on his face waiting for recognition as she extended her arm. Her hand hovered in mid air, and the moment stretched past polite and moved into uncomfortable.
His face remained blank. Her heart tore a tiny bit. What had she expected? Ryan had never noticed her in high school so why did she expect him to remember her fifteen years later? She was just about to pull her hand back when he reached forward and gripped it firmly. Rockets of glorious sensation raced up her arm warming her. Unsettling her from top to toe.
'Sarah,' the timbre of his voice moved over her utilitarian name, making it sound so sexy. 'I'm sorry I didn't recognise you.'
You've got no idea who I am, you don't remember me at all. Time vaporised.
Quiet Sarah Rigby, the girl least noticed. She swallowed against the pain of being unremarkable. She tossed her head in the age-old "what-do-I-care" action, forgetting she no longer had long hair that spun around her face to hide her emotions. God you're not eighteen any more. You're the doctor and you treat the patient.
She straightened her shoulders. 'It's been a long time, Ryan. Back then my hair was a different style. It's gone through many transformations. It's been long, short, jagged and pink.'
'Pink?' One eyebrow rose in disbelief.
'Yes, even pink. It was during my "small town girls can cut it in the big city" phase.' She deliberately steered the conversation away from her and went into doctor mode. She didn't want to recap her last fifteen years with a man who had no recollection of the previous eighteen. 'Let's take a look at you. What happened?'
He shrugged. 'I was trying to change the light bulb and I lost my balance.'
'Does your leg hurt?' She reached to examine it but he put his arm out almost blocking her.
'My leg is fine.' The clipped words echoed around the kitchen.
Sarah frowned slightly. Fit looking men like Ryan usually had a firm grip on the world, their feet securely planted on terra firma. 'Did you black out?'
'No.' The word shot out, defiant, almost aggressive.
Something didn't fit with his story but she pressed on gently. 'OK, but I'll take your BP anyway.' She reached into her bag for her sphygmomanometer, expecting him to refuse her ministrations.
Emotions warred on his face and very unexpectedly he extended his arm out toward her, in an almost passive, resigned action, a slight tremor along its length. 'You won't find it low.'
She ignored the comment and wrapped the cuff around his upper arm, her fingers tingling as they grazed his smooth skin. Stop it. He's a virtual stranger. She pulled her concentration back to the task and listened intently for the thub thub of blood pulsing through the artery, matching the sound against the numbers on the dial of the BP machine. '120/80. Textbook perfect. You were right.'
His mouth, which had worn a grim expression since she'd arrived, twitched into a reluctant smile. 'Glad you agree with me.'
Memories of one treasured conversation with him came flooding back. One day she'd managed to get him talking to her. She loved the way he'd challenged her to think logically and argue her point in the days she'd been convinced law was her calling. That one and only time she'd deliberately disagreed with his point of view solely to keep the conversation going, to extend her time in his company. Not that he would remember it.
She smiled at him, getting back on track. 'So back to my very first question, where does it hurt and can you stand up?'
Tension moved through his body like a corkscrew. Muscles tightened from his jaw down to his feet, which seemed to rise slightly from their prone position. 'I'm not hurt, just bruised. Thanks for coming but I don't want to hold you up any longer. I'll be fine now I have light.'
Surprise and indignation surged inside her. He was dismissing her. I don't think so, mate. 'Tell me how you fell?'
'I'm not hurt, Sarah. You are free to go. You've done your duty of care and I won't sue you for not doing a complete check up.' His closed expression matched the firmness of his words.
No way was the doctor in her going to walk away. Something was going on here and it niggled at her. The words "why are you still on the floor?" rushed to her mouth but she swallowed them as his gaze slid away and his head inclined minutely to his left.
If she hadn't been studying him so intently she would have missed the almost imperceptible movement. She followed his gaze.
The bare bulb threw a yellow light around the old kitchen with its aging stove and mantle piece with seriously faded and stained paper decorations. On the far side of the table, way out of Ryan's reach lay a walking stick.
Suddenly the information slotted into place. 'You can't weight bear without the stick can you?'
He finally broke the long silence. 'No.'
'And in the dark you couldn't find it which is why you're here on the ground.'
He tilted his head to the side. Eyes the colour of stormy, snow clouds zeroed in on her face seeing past it and into her soul. 'You should have gone into detective work, Dr Sarah Rigby. Please pass me my stick.'
The slight pause before the word stick spoke volumes. As a teenager he'd been fit, he'd ridden his bike everywhere. Sarah felt certain he hated that stick. Needed it yet hated it.
She picked up the walking stick; a utilitarian piece of polished brown wood but the gold metal handle marked it as expensive. She passed it to him and offered her arm to help him rise to his feet.
'Thanks, but I'd pull you over. If you just sweep up the glass I can manage the rest.'
'Are you sure?' She hovered next to him.
'Please. Don't. Fuss.'
Each word peppered her like a pellet from a gun. She stood up and almost unconsciously ran her hands down her shorts as if straightening them. Fine. If he wanted to be "Mr. Independent" he could be. She should have known. At school he'd always separated himself from the crowd. A loner beating to a different drum, not letting anyone get close.
'Any idea if there's a broom here?' She opened a cupboard and a mouse ran out. She stifled the scream that rose in her throat. She slammed the door shut. 'No, no broom in that one.' She strode across the room and looked behind the back door.
Grabbing the brush and pan off the rusty nail hammered crookedly into the wood, she crouched down and deftly swept up the glass, peeking up at Ryan just as she finished.
Laughter played across his usually serious face. 'You're pretty good with mice, Sarah Rigby.'
She wanted to be grumpy with him but she smiled despite herself. 'We have an understanding, rodents and I. We give each other a wide berth.'
'I'm sure if they knew you better they'd hang around.' His voice seemed to softly caress each word.
Sarah's mind went blank at the sound and she found herself swaying slightly toward him, just like she had when she'd been a teenager. No! She was imagining all this, wanting him to sound that way. Shock startled her into action. She stood up abruptly. She wasn't a teenager any more. She was a grown woman, a doctor, and a mother. And a widow, don't forget that bit. Ryan Harrison had rejected her years ago. Today he couldn't even remember her. Right now he'd rejected her help.
She refused to make a fool of herself again.
From "The SURGEON'S CHOSEN WIFE" by Fiona Lowe
Mills and Boon Medical Romance March 2006
ISBN: 13 978 0 263 85227 1 Copyright: © 2007 Fiona Lowe
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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