A proposal worth waiting.., p.1
A Proposal Worth Waiting For,
Was Miranda here, then? She must be. He hadn’t had time to think about it. So this was the day, then, that he…or they…had managed to put off for so long.
And there she was, right in front of him, almost exactly the way Nick remembered her—the way he’d glimpsed her two years ago, before making that very fast and very firm decision to pull back. There she was, stepping into the breach with her cheerful, elfin and slightly mischievous face, her calm, sweet voice, her practical attitude, her slim, almost tomboy build and her heart worn carelessly and innocently on her sleeve.
‘Hello, Nick,’ she said.
A cutting-edge medical centre. Fully equipped for saving lives and loves!
Crocodile Creek’s state-of-the-art Medical Centre and Rescue Response Unit is home to a team of expertly trained medical professionals. These dedicated men and women face the challenges of life, love and medicine every day!
This month we meet gorgeous surgeon Nick Devlin when he is reunited with Miranda Carlisle
A PROPOSAL WORTH WAITING FOR
by Lilian Darcy
Look out for dedicated neurosurgeon Nick Vavunis next month as he sweeps beautiful physiotherapist Suzie off her feet
MARRYING THE MILLIONAIRE DOCTOR
by Alison Roberts
In November sexy Angus Stuart comes face to face with the wife he thought he’d lost
CHILDREN’S DOCTOR, MEANT-TO-BE WIFE
by Meredith Webber
And December sees Crocodile Creek Medical Director Charles Wetherby’s final bid to make nurse Jill his longed-for bride
A BRIDE AND CHILD WORTH WAITING FOR
by Marion Lennox
A PROPOSAL WORTH WAITING FOR
Bestselling romance author Lilian Darcy has written over seventy-five novels for Mills & Boon® Medical™ Romance, Special Edition and more. She currently lives in Australia’s capital city, Canberra, with her historian husband and their four children. When she is not writing or supporting her children’s varied interests, Lilian likes to quilt, garden or cook. She also loves winter sports and travel.
Lilian’s career highlights include numerous appearances on romance bestseller lists, three nominations for the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award, and translation into twenty different languages. Find out more about Lilian and her books or contact her at www.liliandarcy.com
Recent titles by the same author:
THE CHILDREN’S DOCTOR AND THE SINGLE MUM
LONG-LOST SON: BRAND-NEW FAMILY*
PREGNANT WITH HIS CHILD*
HE SAW her through the open doorway of Josh’s hospital room and stopped, his body dropping instantly into a silent, wary freeze, half-masked by the door itself, while he prayed she hadn’t seen him.
The name shouldn’t mean so much to him after so long. It had been eight years since they’d last seen each other. And if the intervening time since he and Miranda had studied medicine together provided a protective cushion, then surely his marriage to Anna should do so even more.
But my marriage is in so much trouble…
Nick shut his eyes for a moment, not willing to face the thought. He could hear Anna’s murmuring voice as she sat in the chair beside Josh’s bed, just out of his line of sight. She had her usual barrage of almost obsessive questions and concerns. Miranda’s replies sounded patient and cheerful and clear, but he doubted whether they would quieten Anna’s fears for long.
When he opened his eyes again, he saw Miranda scribbling some lines in Josh’s notes, her head bent a little to reveal the delicate shape of her neck and her elfin ears showing pale pink through her silky dark hair. She still wore it in that swinging ponytail he remembered, and it made her look young and vibrantly energetic, like a jazz dancer or the leader of a troop of Guides.
She was Josh’s doctor now. His new respiratory specialist, because the previous one, Dr McCubbin, had just retired. Anna was thrilled with Dr Carlisle, after Josh’s emergency admission yesterday, and had said so in her usual over-detailed, stress-filled way.
But Nick hadn’t admitted to their past association, other than to say to Anna in passing, ‘We went through medicine together. She worked bloody hard every step of the way. I’m not surprised you think she’s good.’
Good, and dangerous.
He was shocked to recognise the fact, but he was in no doubt of it. If their brief, passionate past relationship was going to flare in his memory in such vivid colours every time he saw her, then he should steer clear of her in the future as much as he could. For the sake of his very shaky marriage. For the sake of politeness and professionalism. For the sake of…yeah…a few things inside himself that it wouldn’t be productive or relevant or safe at this point to confront, when there was so much else of more importance going on.
On paper, you’d think that avoiding Miranda Carlisle wouldn’t be possible at all. Nick’s own son. His son’s doctor. The scarily unstable nature of Josh’s asthma attacks. The relationship between Miranda and little Josh would definitely be ongoing.
But when Nick thought of the way Anna had been reacting to Josh’s illness since it had been diagnosed eleven months ago, he knew with his usual frustration and sinking heart that his wife would be only too happy if he kept out of the way and left all the questions, the emotions and the sacrifice to her.
Now, for example. She wouldn’t be pleased to see him, wouldn’t appreciate how much he’d shoved his schedule around at Royal Victoria Hospital in order to get here at this time of day.
He saw Miranda tuck Josh’s notes into the plastic pocket at the end of the bed. It looked as if she was leaving. He ducked quickly back against the corridor wall before heading into the nearest visitor’s toilet.
She hadn’t seen him. Good. He would wait until she was certain to be gone—as a reconstructive surgeon who made these kinds of hospital rounds himself on a daily basis, he knew how to time these things—and then he’d go in to greet his wife and son.
Nick was wrong. Miranda had seen him, although she guessed he didn’t know it. When he’d first appeared and then ducked back, the movement had caught her eye at once. She’d been steeling herself for the encounter, so she had been on the alert.
Her focus had been on Josh and his mother, but she’d glimpsed the figure in the doorway and managed to catch a couple more angled, hidden glances as she’d written in Josh’s notes.
Handy things, those notes.
As soon as she’d seen the name Devlin, Nicholas, listed as the patient’s father, she’d wondered. Her former colleague, James McCubbin, had mentioned in passing a young patient named Devlin with a surgeon for a father. Now James had retired, and his patients would be parcelled out to the other three doctors in the practice.
By virtue of being the one on call when Josh had come into the emergency department with his mother yesterday afternoon, she’d inherited him, and a quick check of the contact details had confirmed that his father was that Nick, her Nick, the one who had sneaked up on her heart without her knowing it during the course of six years of shared medical studies and had then shattered it to pieces in one single night.
Or maybe she’d broken her own heart by giving it away too eagerly. She’d never really been sure how those
And now she was Nick’s son’s doctor, and he’d disappeared from the doorway, and she wondered if the reason had anything to do with her. Maybe it was only that his pager had gone off. But if he was trying to avoid her…
Well, he couldn’t do that forever. At some point, they’d have to connect.
INCREDIBLY, it took two years.
Having taken on Josh Devlin as a patient when he was three years old, Miranda didn’t see his father again until the little boy was five…
‘I can’t come, Miranda. I have to pull out of the whole first week. Maybe even the whole trip.’ Anna Devlin looked white with stress and half-blind to anything else going on around her. She grabbed Miranda’s arm in the middle of the check-in concourse at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport and made the announcement before Miranda even had time to greet her properly.
‘My mother’s broken her leg. She’s not going to manage. It just happened today. She slipped on her front steps. I’ve been in six places at once, on the phone, at the hospital. And, of course, it all falls to me. My sisters are saying they can’t possibly come down. I’m so sorry, Miranda. I’m a complete mess.’
‘It’s OK. Slow down a bit, Anna.’ Miranda took a couple of controlled breaths herself in an attempt to encourage her patient’s mother to find some calm. ‘First, is Josh upset that you won’t be going with him? Where is he?’
Anna shook her head distractedly. ‘N-no, he’s all right. Sort of. He’s here, minding his suitcase. A bit overwhelmed. Am I doing the right thing? I can’t see any other option. I’m the one who’s really panicking. I’m trying not to let it show.’
Trying, and failing dismally.
Anna was often emotional and tunnel-visioned, verging on obsessive, although Miranda had tried in various ways to get her to see that it wasn’t good for her son. Anna said all the right things, but couldn’t put her resolutions into practice.
‘Do you want to look at cancelling? Rescheduling for another time?’ Over Anna’s shoulder, Miranda saw two more families arrive, but there was still plenty of time. The flight to Queensland wasn’t due to board for another half-hour.
Anna shook her head at Miranda’s questions. ‘No, Josh would be so disappointed. We’ve been talking about it for weeks. No, he definitely has to go. It would take months to schedule him another stay, wouldn’t it?’
‘Probably,’ Miranda had to admit.
Places at the Crocodile Creek Kids’ Camp on Wallaby Island off the coast of northern Queensland were in high demand. Miranda had a zing in her spirits this afternoon, herself, even though she was going there not on a private holiday but in her professional capacity.
Anna let go of her arm at last and she spotted five-year-old Josh just a few metres away, sitting obediently on his suitcase near the check-in counter. He looked far more calm than his mother. Too calm, maybe. A little subdued. He was still essentially the same kid Miranda had first met two years ago—small for his age, endearingly gap-toothed and urchin-like, a real sweetheart with a healthy capacity for mischief and numerous hospital admissions under his belt. Anna was totally and single-mindedly devoted to him, and he was her only child.
There wouldn’t be any more now.
Anna and Nick were divorced.
‘He’ll be fine,’ she promised Anna. ‘We’ll take care of him. We have a couple of other kids coming without parents.’
She gestured towards awkward, unconfident Stella Vavunis, aged thirteen, whom she’d already ticked off on her list. Stella’s dad was supposed to be coming later in the week. As one of the major donors to the new medical centre on Wallaby Island, he would be a guest of honour at Saturday’s official opening. For the first few days, however, Stella would be on her own.
In remission from bone cancer, Stella wasn’t one of Miranda’s own patients, but her heart went out to the girl anyway. Her dark hair was growing back wispy and thin after her chemo, and she’d lost the lower half of her right leg. Adept on her elbow crutches, she was intensely self-conscious about her lost limb and had her new prosthesis covered in a pair of heavy jeans that would be way too hot for the climate of North Queensland.
‘He’s not coming without a parent,’ Anna announced, her stress level visibly rising again. She had an exotic, compelling kind of beauty, with huge eyes, high cheekbones and full lips, and the combination of her good looks and high emotion had begun to draw some attention.
Miranda frowned, a little slow. Too slow, considering how long she’d been waiting for something like this to happen. ‘But…?’
‘That’s the whole thing, Miranda.’ Miranda’s arm was once again captured in a tight grip. ‘That’s the whole reason—well, a big part of it—why I’m so stressed.’ She added in a tone that was half wail, half whisper, ‘He’s coming with Nick.’
Right. With Nick.
She must have looked shocked—and shouldn’t have let it show—because Anna said in a tight voice, ‘Please. Don’t make me dread this any more than I am already. Don’t make Josh dread it, especially.’
‘I didn’t mean—’
‘Nick should be here within the next ten minutes. He promised me he wouldn’t muck me around on this.’
‘So he’s coming for the whole two weeks? At such short notice?’
Anna rolled her eyes and drawled, ‘I know. It’s a miracle. Actually making a sacrifice for his son for once.’
‘Well, I meant—’ Miranda meant that it was a miracle, just as Anna had said, but without the other woman’s edge of sarcasm and bitterness. It was great that the persistently absent surgeon could step in to fill the breach, just hours in advance of the flight. Her initial shocked gut reaction was her own problem, not Anna’s.
‘I’m hoping it’ll only be for the first week,’ Anna was saying. ‘I’m going to find a way to get up there for the second week if it kills me! Two weeks with Nick will ruin Josh’s stay.’
Had the little boy heard? Miranda wondered. Anna wasn’t sufficiently careful in what she said around her son.
Whether it was one week or two, Nick must have called in some favours, Miranda realised. He would have made a lot of phone calls that morning to get everything organised and taken care of. His willingness to make the effort did surprise her somewhat, when she thought about it. She’d been forced, by his persistent non-appearance, to the conclusion that he was a very uninvolved parent, and the fact bothered her more than it should.
Anna and Nick had been divorced for months, now, but even before that, Anna was always the parent who brought Josh in for appointments, always the one who phoned with questions, and whose signature appeared on admission and consent forms when Josh was in hospital.
Miranda knew that Nick had made the odd appearance since that first time when she’d seen him pause and stand half-hidden by the open door. She’d seen his name in Josh’s patient notes a couple of times—’7 p.m. Dad visited.’ But they’d never come face to face. To be honest, for reasons that she didn’t want to examine too closely, she’d been relieved about that. Maybe she’d even contributed to it, in how she timed her hospital visits and routine check-ups.
Their failure to connect with each other gave a nagging, unfinished quality to her memories of their past, however. Everything she knew about Nick Devlin’s attitudes and behaviour as a father over the past couple of years she’d heard from Anna. Very little of it was good. Nick was apparently cool, distant and uncaring, and Josh shrank from him whenever father and son were together.
Funny how things happened.
Years ago, younger and more naive about men in general and about Nick Devlin in particular, Miranda would have predicted he’d make a great father. She was so sure that in their one night together she had suddenly seen—had been allowe
Ships that passed in the night, and all that. Women were sometimes way too good at kidding themselves about that stuff. Was that the problem? Her own poor judgement? Had she learned enough since then to avoid similar mistakes in future? The memories were still strong, but Miranda didn’t trust them any more. She must have read him wrong when they’d been medical students together. A wife—even an ex-wife—would know him better.
How am I going to feel about seeing him?
For better or for worse, she was about to find out.
Nick paid off the cab driver, grabbed his duffel bag from beside the kerb and headed for the terminal. He’d promised Anna that he wouldn’t be late and he wasn’t.
Or almost wasn’t.
He’d had a sick-making fifteen minutes of panic at home about what he should be bringing for his son, and as usual he couldn’t deal with the strength of the emotion because it brought so much other stuff with it.
He had some snacks and a drink for the flight, a couple of picture books and the kind of cheap toy that a five-year-old kid could play with on an aircraft tray table, and Anna would have Josh’s asthma gear, of course, as well as his clothing, but…
Should he be bringing a proper gift? A camera, or snorkelling equipment? He already had Josh’s Christmas present, a substantial addition to his Lego collection. Should he bring that, make it a going-away treat, and get him something else for Christmas, which was still two months away? Or did that smack far too much of an attempt to bribe his son for love?
The decision paralysed him.
Yes, he, Dr Nicholas Devlin, MB BS FRACS, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at Melbourne’s renowned Royal Victoria Hospital, who was normally able to make life-altering decisions in seconds if he had to, could not for the life of him decide how to handle the issue of his son’s gift.
by Lilian Darcy / Romance / Literature & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes