Noah Jackson just wants to be a surgeon - but first he must endure a GP placement in Turraburra, with beautiful midwife Lilia Cartwright! She lectures this gorgeous but brooding doc about his bedside manner, but she also sees into his soul and touches his locked-away heart. Can Noah also give Lilia the happy-ever-after she deserves? Midwives On-Call: Midwives, Mothers and Babies - Lives Changing For Ever...!
To my fellow Mills & Boon Medical Romance Authors. You’re all amazing and talented women. Thank you for the support, the laughs and the fun times when we we’re lucky enough to meet in person.
Why I Wrote the Book
Usually writing a book is a relatively solitary job but when you're writing a novel, which is part of a series written by a group of authors, it comes with a lovely sense of camaraderie. The Midwives On-Call series was no exception. Way back in the day, I worked as a midwife. I loved it. There is something so precious and special about delivering a baby. For a few hours, you're part of people's lives as they experience one of their most momentous events. It's an honor and a privilege. One of the births that stands out in my memory is delivering twins on Christmas Day. I've also been on the other side of the delivery; the woman giving birth and I still remember with great fondness the midwives who delivered my sons.
In Unlocking Her Surgeon's Heart, Lilia is a dedicated midwife in a small coastal town. She loves her work but to a certain extent she's hiding behind it. Her world is small and safe, which is how she wants and needs it to be. The arrival of an arrogant and grumpy city surgeon is something to be endured for four, short weeks and she's endured worse so how hard could it possibly be?
Noah is in the final months of his surgical fellowship and being sent to the tiny township of Turraburra is his worst nightmare. He chose surgery so he didn't have to talk to patients but his boss at the Melbourne Victoria hospital has other ideas. Noah starts counting down the hours until he can leave from the moment he arrives, and he surely doesn't need or want the enigmatic midwife's opinion on his rusty communication skills. As the weeks go by, Noah not only discovers his bedside manner, but exactly what's been missing in his life. Can he convince Lilia to take the biggest risk of her life and love him?
I hope you enjoy Lilia and Noah's story. For photos that inspired the setting head over to my Pinterest page.
Unlocking Her Surgeon's Heart
Excerpt From Chapter One
‘WANT TO CLOSE?’
Noah Jackson, senior surgical registrar at the Melbourne Victoria Hospital, smiled behind his mask as he watched the answer to his question glow in the eyes of his surgical intern.
‘Do I support The Westies?’ Rick Stewart quipped, his eyes alight with enthusiasm. His loyalty to the struggling Australian Rules football team was legendary amongst the staff, who teased him mercilessly.
‘For Mrs Levatti’s sake, you need to close better than your team plays,’ Noah said, knowing full well Rick was more than capable. There’d be no way he’d allow him to stitch up his patient unless he was three levels above competent. The guy reminded him of himself back in the day when he’d been an intern—keen, driven and determined to succeed.
‘Thanks, team.’ Noah stepped back from the operating table and stripped off his gloves, his mind already a long way from work. ‘It’s been a huge week and I’ve got the weekend off.’
‘Lucky bastard,’ muttered Ed Yang, the anaesthetist. ‘I’m on call for the entire weekend.’
Noah had little sympathy. ‘It’s my first weekend off in over a month and I’m starting it at the Rooftop with one of their boutique beers.’
‘I might see you there later,’ Lizzy said casually.
The scout nurse’s come-hither green eyes sparkled at him, reminding him of a previous good time together. ‘Everyone’s welcome,’ he added, not wanting to tie himself down to anyone or anything. ‘I’ll be there until late.’
He strode out and headed purposefully towards the change rooms, savouring freedom. Anticipation bubbled in him as he thought about his hard-earned weekend of sleeping in, cycling along the Yarra, catching a game at the MCG, eating at his favourite café, and finally seeing the French film everyone was talking about. God, he loved Melbourne in the spring and everything that it offered.
The familiar deep voice behind him made him reluctantly slow and he turned to face the distinguished man the nursing staff called the silver fox.
‘You got a minute?’ Daniel Serpell asked.
No. But that wasn’t a word an intern or registrar ever said to the chief of surgery. ‘Sure.’
The older man nodded slowly. ‘Great job on that lacerated liver on Tuesday. Impressive.’
The unexpected praise from the hard taskmaster made Noah want to punch the air. ‘Thanks. It was touch and go for a bit and we almost put the blood bank into deficit but we won.’
‘No one in this hospital has any doubt about your surgical abilities, Noah.’
Something about the way his boss hit the word surgical made Noah uneasy. ‘That’s a good thing, right?’
‘There are nine areas of competency to satisfy the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.’
Noah was familiar with every single one of them now that his final surgical exams were only a few months away. ‘Got them all covered, Prof.’
‘You might think that, Noah, but others don’t agree.’ He reached inside his jacket and produced a white envelope with Noah’s name printed on it.
‘Your solution to competency number two.’
‘I don’t follow.’
The prof sighed. ‘Noah, I can’t fault you on technical skills and I’d trust you to operate on me, my wife and my family. You’re talented with your patients when they’re asleep but we’ve had complaints from your dealings with them when they’re awake.’ He cleared his throat. ‘We’ve also had complaints from staff.’
Noah’s gut clenched so tight it burned and the envelope in his hand suddenly developed a crushing weight. ‘Is this an official warning?’
‘No, not at all,’ the prof said genially. ‘I’m on your side and this is the solution to your problem.’
‘I didn’t know I had a problem,’ he said, not able to hide his defensiveness.
The professor raised a brow. ‘And after this, I hope you won’t have one either.’
‘You’re sending me on a communications course?’ The idea of sitting around in a circle with a group of strangers and talking about feelings appalled him.
‘Everything you need to know is in the envelope. Just make sure you’re ready to start at eight o’clock on Monday morning.’ He clapped a hand on Noah’s shoulder. ‘Enjoy your weekend off.’
As his boss walked away, Noah’s anxiety ramped up ten notches and the pristine, white envelope now ticked like an unexploded bomb. Not wanting to read it in public, he walked quickly to the doctors’ lounge, thankfully finding it empty. He ripped open the envelope and scanned the brief letter.
Dear Dr Jackson
Your four-week rotation at the Turraburra Medical Clinic commences on Monday, August 17th at eight a.m. Accommodation, if required, is provided at the doctor’s flat located on Nautalis Parade. Collect the key from the real estate agent in Williams Street before noon, Saturday. See the enclosed map and tourist information, which we hope will be of assistance to you.
Enjoy your rotation in Turraburra—the sapphire of South Gippsland.
Surgical Trainee Placement Officer.
No. No way. Noah’s intake of breath was so sharp it made him cough. This could not be happening. They couldn’t do this to him. Not now. Suddenly, the idea of a communications course seemed positively fun.
Relax. You must have read it wrong. Fighting the red heat of rage that was frantically duelling with disbelief, he slowly reread the letter, desperately hoping he’d misunderstood its message. As his eyes scrolled left to right and he slowed his mind down to read each and every word, it made no difference. The grim message the black and white letters told didn’t change.
He was being exiled—sent rural—and the timing couldn’t be worse. In fact, it totally sucked. Big time. He had less than six months before he sat his final surgical examinations and now more than ever his place was at the Victoria. He should be here, doing cutting-edge surgery, observing the latest technology, attending tutorials and studying. Always studying. He should not be stuck in a country clinic day in, day out, listening to the ramblings of patients with chronic health issues that surgery couldn’t solve.
General practice. A shudder ran through him at the thought. There was a reason he’d aimed high and fought for his hard-earned place in the surgical programme, and a large part of it was to avoid the mundane routine of being a GP. He had no desire at all to have a long and ongoing connection with patients or get to know their families or be introduced to their dogs. This was blatantly unfair. Why the hell had he been singled out? Damn it, none of the other surgical registrars had been asked to do this.
A vague memory of Oliver Evans bawling him out months ago flickered across his mind but surely that had nothing to do with this. Consultants yelled at registrars from time to time—usually during moments of high stress when the odds were stacked against them and everyone was battling to save a patient’s life. Heated words were exchanged, a lot of swearing went down but at the end of the day it was forgotten and all was forgiven. It was all part of the cut and thrust of hospital life.
Logic immediately penetrated his incredulity. The prof had asked him to teach a workshop to the new interns in less than two weeks so this Turraburra couldn’t be too far away from downtown Melbourne. Maybe he was just being sent to the growth corridor—the far-flung edges of the ever-growing city, the outer, outer ’burbs. That wouldn’t be too bad. A bit of commuting wouldn’t kill him and he could listen to his training podcasts on the drive there and back each day.
Feeling more positive, he squinted at the dot on the map.
His expletive rent the air, staining it blue. He’d been banished to the back of beyond.
Lilia Cartwright, never Lil and always Lily to her friends, stood on a whitewashed dock in the ever-brightening, early morning light. She stared out towards the horizon, welcoming the sting of salt against her cheeks, the wind in her hair, and she smiled. ‘New day, Chippy,’ she said to her tan and white greyhound who stared up at her with enormous, brown, soulful eyes. ‘Come on, mate, look a bit more excited. After this walk, you’ll have another day ahead of you of lazing about and being cuddled.’
Chippy tugged on his leash as he did every morning when they stood on the dock, always anxious to get back indoors. Back to safety.
Lily loved the outdoors but she understood only too well Chippy’s need for safe places. Given his experiences during the first two years of his life, she didn’t begrudge him one little bit, but she was starting to think she might need a second dog to go running with to keep fit. Walking with Chippy hardly constituted exercise because she never broke a sweat.
Turning away from the aquamarine sea, she walked towards the Turraburra Medical Centre. In the grounds of the small bush nursing hospital and nursing home, the glorious bluestone building had started life a hundred and thirty years ago as the original doctor’s house. Now, fully restored, it was a modern clinic. She particularly loved her annexe—the midwifery clinic and birth centre. Although it was part of the medical centre, it had a separate entrance so her healthy, pregnant clients didn’t have to sit in a waiting room full of coughing and hacking sick people. It had been one of the best days of her career when the Melbourne Midwifery Clinic had responded to her grant application and incorporated Turraburra into their outreach programme for rural and isolated women.
The clinic was her baby and she’d taken a lot of time and effort in choosing the soothing, pastel paint and the welcoming décor. She wanted it to feel less like a sterile clinic and far more like visiting someone’s home. In a way, given that she’d put so much of herself into the project, the pregnant women and their families were visiting her home.
At first glance, the birthing suite looked like a room in a four-star hotel complete with a queen-sized bed, side tables, lounge chairs, television, bar fridge and a roomy bathroom. On closer inspection, though, it had all the important features found in any hospital room. Oxygen, suction and nitrous oxide outlets were discreetly incorporated in the wall whilst other medical equipment was stored in a cupboard that looked like a wardrobe and it was only brought out when required.
The birth centre didn’t cater for high-risk pregnancies—those women were referred to Melbourne, where they could receive the high-tech level of care required for a safe, happy and healthy outcome for mother and baby. The Turraburra women who were deemed to be at a low risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications gave birth here, close to their homes and families. For Lily it was an honour to be part of the birth and to bring a new life into the world.
As Turraburra was a small town, it didn't stop there either. In the three years since she’d returned home and taken on the position of the town’s midwife, she’d not only delivered a lot of babies, she’d also attended a lot of children’s birthday parties. She loved watching the babies grow up and she could hardly believe that those first babies she’d delivered were now close to starting three-year-old kinder. As her involvement with the babies and children was as close as she was ever likely to get to having a family of her own, she treasured it even more.
Lily stepped into the main part of the clinic and automatically said, ‘Morning, Karen,’ before she realised the receptionist wasn’t behind her desk. Karen’s absence reminded her that a new doctor was starting today. Sadly, since the retirement of their beloved Dr Jameson two years ago, this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. She remembered the fuss they’d all made of the first new doctor to arrive in town—ever hopeful he’d be staying for years to come—but he’d left after three months. Seven other doctors had followed in a two-year period and all of the staff, including herself, had become a bit blasé about new arrivals. The gloss had long faded from their hope that this one might actually stay for the long term and grand welcoming gestures had fallen by the wayside.
Turraburra, like so many rural towns in Australia, lacked a permanent doctor. It did, however, have more than its fair share of overseas and Australian general practitioner trainees as well as numerous medical students. All of them passed through the clinic and hospital on short stays so they could tick their obligatory rural rotation off their list before hot-footing it back to Melbourne or Sydney or any other major capital city.
The cultural identity that to be Australian was to be at one with the bush was a myth. Australia was the most urbanised country in the world and most people wanted to be a stone’s throw from a big city and all the conveniences that offered. Lily didn’t agree. She loved Turraburra and it would take a major catastrophe for her to ever live in Melbourne again. She still bore the scars from her last attempt.
Some of the doctors who came to Turraburra were brilliant and the town begged them to stay longer, while others were happily farewelled with a collective sigh of relief and a long slug of fortifying beer or wine at the end of their rotation. Lily had been so busy over the weekend, delivering two babies, that she hadn’t had time to open the email she’d received late on Friday with the information about ‘doctor number nine’. She wondered if nine was going to be Turraburra’s lucky number.
Chippy frantically tugged at his leash again. ‘Yes, I know, we’re here. Hang on a second.’ She bent down and slid her hand under his wide silver and indigo decorative collar that one of the patients had made for him. It was elegant and had an air of Russian royalty about it, showing off his long and graceful neck. She released the clip from the leash and with far more enthusiasm than he ever showed on a walk, Chippy raced to his large, padded basket in the waiting room and curled up with a contented sigh.
He was the clinic’s companion dog and all the patients from the tiny tots to the ninety-year-olds loved and adored him. He basked in the daily stroking and cuddles and Lily hoped his hours of being cosseted went some way towards healing the pain of his early life at the hands of a disreputable greyhound racer. She stroked his long nose. ‘You have fun today and I’ll see you tonight.’
Chippy smiled in the way only greyhounds can.
She crossed the waiting room and was collecting her mail from her pigeonhole when she heard, ‘What the hell is that thing doing in here?’
She flinched at the raised, curt male voice and knew that Chippy would be shivering in his basket. Clutching her folders to her chest like a shield, she marched back into the waiting room. A tall guy with indecently glossy brown hair stood in the middle of the waiting room.
Two things instantly told her he was from out of town. Number one: she’d never met him. Number two: he was wearing a crisp white shirt with a tie that looked to be silk. It sat at his taut, freshly shaven throat in a wide Windsor knot that fitted perfectly against the collar with no hint of a gap or a glimpse of a top button. The tie was red and it contrasted dramatically with the dark grey pinstriped suit.
No one in Turraburra ever wore a suit unless they were attending a funeral, and even then no man in the district ever looked this neat, tailored, or gorgeous in a suit. Gorgeous or not, his loud and curt voice had Chippy shrinking into his basket with fear. Her spine stiffened. Working hard at keeping calm and showing no fear, she said quietly, ‘I could ask you the same question.’
His chestnut-brown brows arrowed down fast into a dark V, forming a deep crease above the bridge of his nose. He looked taken aback. ‘I’m supposed to be here.’
She thought she heard him mutter, ‘Worse luck,’ as he quickly shoved a large hand with neatly trimmed nails out towards her. The abrupt action had every part of her urging her to step back for safety. Stop it. It’s okay. With great effort she glued her feet to the floor and stayed put but she didn’t take her gaze off his wide hand.
‘Noah Jackson,’ he said briskly. ‘Senior surgical registrar at Melbourne Victoria Hospital.’
She instantly recognised his name. Her friend Ally had mentioned him once in passing but she’d been very definite that there was no way he’d ever come to work Turraburra. At the time it had made total sense because no surgery was done here anymore. So why was he standing in the clinic waiting room, filling it with his impressive height and breadth?
She realised he was giving her an odd look and his hand was now hovering between them. Slowly, she let her right hand fall from across her chest. ‘Lilia Cartwright. Midwife.’
His palm slid against hers—warm and smooth—and then his long, strong fingers gripped the back of her hand. It was a firm, fast, no-nonsense handshake and it was over quickly, but the memory of the pressure lingered on her skin. She didn’t want to think about it. Not that it was awful, it was far from that, but the firm pressure of hands on her skin wasn’t something she dwelled on. Ever.
From "Unlocking Her Surgeon's Heart" (Midwives on Call) by Fiona Lowe
Mills and Boon Medical Romance July 2015
ISBN: 978-0-263-247176 Copyright: © 2015 Fiona Lowe
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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