Dr. Blake's Angel
Dr. Blake Sutherland is the sole G.P. in town. Overworked and exhausted, he needs a miracle. He gets one in the form of seven-months-pregnant Dr. Nell McKenzie, who announces that he is to have a holiday while she takes over his practice!
Blake can't let such a heavily pregnant woman assume his huge workload. So Nell insists on sharing his patients - and his Christmas - with him, instead. Blake has sworn never to get close to anyone again, but he has a feeling that this Christmas will be one he'll never forget!
"I'm not a patient. I'm your Christmas present."
Right... The woman had glossy, copper-red hair. She was wearing purple patchwork overalls, a pink T-shirt and pink flowery sandals. She was also heavily pregnant.
Dr Blake Sutherland still had urgent house calls to do. He'd promised Grace Mayne he'd visit her tonight and the elderly fisherwoman was already waiting. He'd been up since dawn, he was exhausted and now he had a nutcase on his hands.
"I bet you've never had a Christmas present like me." The woman's bright smile exuded happiness.
Who on earth was she? Blake didn't have a clue. She'd arrived an hour ago, settled to wait for his last afternoon appointment and had been placidly reading old copies of Rich and Famous until he'd found time to see her.
His Christmas present... On reflection, he decided to ignore what she'd said and try again. "You're pregnant." He sat back and did a slow assessment. She was at least seven months, he guessed, or maybe more. She was glowing with the health most women found in late stages of pregnancy, and she looked...lovely?
Lovely was as good a way as any to describe her, he decided as he took in her startling appearance. Her riot of copper curls was close cropped but not enough to stop the rioting. Her freckled face was enhanced by huge green eyes, and she had the most gorgeous smile...
Oh, for heaven's sake! Ignore the smile. She also had a problem or she wouldn't be here.
"Yes, I'm pregnant. Great work for noticing." She chuckled. It was a nice, throaty chuckle that went beautifully with her eyes. "Em said you were a brilliant doctor, and you've just proved it. Pregnant, hey?" She patted her tummy. "Well, well. Who'd have guessed it?"
He had the grace to smile. "I'm sorry, but -"
"I guess since I'm pregnant you have two gifts for the price of one - but maybe the outer package is the only useful bit. That's me."
She was a nutcase! But she was pregnant and she may well have medical needs. He needed to step warily. The worst medical mistakes were made when doctors were tired, and he didn't intend to toss her out unchecked because she was a bit unbalanced.
"Have you come to see me about your pregnancy?" He glanced at her naked ring finger and took a punt. "Miss..." Another glance to the card his receptionist had given him. "Miss McKenzie."
"It's Dr McKenzie," she told him. "Or Nell if you prefer." Her smile deepened and she held out her hand in greeting. Dazed, he took it. "Nell's better. Dr McKenzie always makes me feel like someone's talking to my grandfather."
Her hand was warm and firm. His hand was shaken and released and that was how he felt. Shaken.
This conversation was way out of line, he decided. He didn't have a clue what was going on. "Miss... Doctor..."
"Hey, you are exhausted," she said, on a note of discovery. "Emily and Jonas told me you were. They said you really, really needed me, and after an hour in your waiting room I'm starting to see that they're right."
"Look, Miss -"
"Doctor," she reminded him, and she smiled again. It was some smile. It was a smile that lit parts of the room he hadn't even known were dark.
He sat back and let his tired eyes assess her. She really was wearing the most amazing outfit. She looked exceedingly cute, he decided. And her red hair gleamed. Actually, all of her gleamed! She sort of beamed all over...
"Doctor, then." He continued his visual assessment but his mind was working overtime.
She was right, he thought. He was exhausted. This town had far too much work for one doctor and the weeks before Christmas had seen things go haywire. It was the start of the silly season, and whatever happened in the town, the consequences usually ended up here. In his surgery.
That included barmy pregnant ladies who said they were doctors...
"Can I ask -?"
"I think you should." She rested her hands lightly on her very pregnant tummy. "Ask away. Or I can explain by myself if you'd rather."
"Go ahead," he said faintly, and her smile deepened.
"You promise not to rope me into a strait-jacket?"
"I promise no such thing." Her smile was infectious. Somehow he found the corners of his mouth twitching in response. "But I'll listen."
That was better! Nell settled further back into her chair and relaxed. He seemed nice, she thought. And he was younger than she'd expected. Jonas and Emily had described him as best they could but it had hardly been a comprehensive description.
"Blake's in his mid-thirties," Em had told her. "He's got the most gorgeous gold-brown hair and smily brown eyes. Creasy eyes, if you know what I mean. Nice. They're tired creased as well as laughter creased but I guess you'd expect that after what he's gone through. And what he's going through. His life's all medicine. Work, work and more work. Except his marathon running - though how he finds the time to fit that in is anyone's guess."
Emily had sighed as she'd described him. "You'll like him, Nell. You must. Anyone would. It's a damned shame..." She'd hauled herself back on track. "No matter. But what else? Oh, he's tall. Over six feet. He's taller than Jonas."
"Oh, for heaven's sake..." Jonas had interrupted then, cutting across his wife with good humour. "Nell wants a medical description - not the sort of description you'd find in the lonely hearts column." Jonas had grimaced his disgust, and Nell had grinned.
"OK, Jonas. What would you tell me about him?"
"He's a great guy. He likes beer."
"Gee, that's useful," Nell retorted, and both the women had chuckled.
"Well, he's a really talented surgeon," Jonas told her, in a valiant attempt to fill in the bits his wife had left out. "His training is in vascular as well as general surgery, so Sandy Ridge is lucky to have him. He's one caring doctor, with far more skills than the normal country doctor possesses. But Em's right. He drives himself into the ground."
"Which is where you come in," Em had added. Which was where Nell came in. She'd gone to visit her friends and she'd ended up here.
So now Nell faced Blake Sutherland across the desk and she knew what she had to say. "It's as I told you," she said blandly. "I'm your Christmas present. Take me or leave me, but I'm here, to use as you will."
Blake Sutherland was not often flummoxed, but he was flummoxed now. And he was also so tired that he was having trouble understanding what was in front of him.
Sandy Ridge was an isolated medical community. Thirty miles to the north, the marriage of Jonas Lunn and Emily Mainwaring had given Bay Beach good medical cover, and his two friends gave him his only time off, but it wasn't enough.
That was the way he liked it, he'd told himself over and over through the two years he'd been here. He liked being a country doctor, and he liked being on his own. It was just every so often that he felt snowed under.
Like now. Like when he had the Christmas rush and a crazy pregnant stranger to cope with, and too many house calls after that.
"You'd better explain a bit more," he managed, and Nell's smile softened into sympathy.
"Can I get you a cup of tea while I do?" A cup of tea? She'd booked in as his patient and she was offering him cups of tea?
"Thank you, but no."
"You look like you need it." What he needed was to get out of here. He needed to do his house calls, see Grace Mayne and then he needed to sleep - for about a hundred years!
"Can you just tell me what the problem is, and let me get on with my day?" he said wearily. "Have you filled in a new patient summary?" He lifted a form and held it up without hope. Marion should have insisted she fill it out. He had no idea why she hadn't.
"Fill out a form when I could read ancient copies of Rich and Famous magazine?" Nell grinned. "Why would I do that? I've been learning all about Madonna's love life, and very interesting it is, too. Much more gripping than anything I could write on a stupid form. And I'm not a new patient."
"Then would you mind telling me what the heck you are?"
"I'm trying," she complained. "But you keep interrupting. I'm your Christmas present."
"My Christmas present."
Blake sat back and gazed at this extraordinary purple and pink vision and he had trouble convincing himself he wasn't hallucinating.