Falling for Her Wounded Hero
A debt repaid…with love?
Tom Blake helped Tasha Raymond through a heartbreaking loss eighteen months ago—so when she learns he's been devastatingly injured she's determined to repay the debt by helping him in return.
Working with the handsome GP stirs up a storm of emotions, but Tasha has no intention of truly getting close. The playboy's devil-may-care attitude is the last thing she needs! But then the wounded doc's kindness proves too much temptation for her heart to resist…
The surf outside his surgery window was calling like a siren’s song. Sunlit waves were rolling in with perfect symmetry. Dr Tom Blake had been watching them between patients, crossing his fingers that his list for the afternoon stayed short.
It did. Cray Point was a small town tucked away on a peninsula on Australia’s south-east coast, and almost without exception its residents loved the ocean. On a day like this, only the most urgent medical problems replaced the call of the surf.
Which meant Tom could surf, too.
‘That’s it,’ he called to his receptionist as he closed his last patient file. ‘We’re out of here.’
‘One more,’ Rhonda called back. ‘A last-minute booking. Mrs Tasha Raymond’s here to see you.’
A tourist? Something easy, he hoped, and headed out to usher her in.
The woman was sitting at the far side of his waiting room. She was close to thirty, he thought, and very pregnant. She had the exhausted and shadowed look he sometimes saw when pregnant women had too much to cope with—toddlers at home, too many work commitments, or a deep unhappiness at the pregnancy itself.
She was small, five four or five, and fair skinned, with brown curls caught into an unruly knot. She was wearing maternity jeans and an enormous windcheater. The shadows under her eyes suggested she hadn’t slept for days.
And he knew her. Tasha Raymond? He’d met her as Tasha Blake.
‘Tasha,’ he said, and she managed a smile and struggled to rise.
‘Tom. I didn’t think you’d recognise me.’
Fair point. Tasha was his half-brother’s widow but he’d only met her once, at Paul’s funeral four years ago.
He’d attended because he’d thought he should, not because he’d thought he was wanted. His stepmother had made it clear she’d prefer it if he stayed away. He’d gone, though, and had stayed in the background, and then one of Paul’s climbing mates who knew the family background had decided to intervene and introduce him.
‘Tom, I doubt if you’ve met Tasha. Did you know Tasha and Paul were married?’
The news that Paul had died trying to scale Everest had come as no huge surprise. Paul had spent his life moving from one adventure to another, taking bigger and bigger risks along the way. The knowledge that he’d found time to marry had been a bigger shock.
But the slight figure surrounded by Paul’s climbing friends had seemed almost a ghost. He’d told her how sorry he was, but he’d only had time for few perfunctory words.
For of course his stepmother had moved in. Afterwards he’d never been able to figure if her contempt was only for him, or if it had included Tasha. Tasha had been a pale figure huddled into someone else’s greatcoat to protect her from the icy winds at the graveside—and maybe also from her mother-in-law?
There’d seemed little point in pursuing the acquaintance, though. And after giving his condolences he’d left.
Four years ago.
Why was her face etched on his memory? Why was recognition so instant?
The notes in his hand said she was Tasha Raymond. She was obviously pregnant. Had she remarried? Four years was time to have moved on.
Rhonda was looking from Tom to Tasha with bright interest. Rhonda was the world’s worst gossip—well, maybe apart from her twin sister. Tom employed them both. Rhonda was his receptionist and Hilda was his housekeeper. The widowed, middle-aged sisters were excellent at their jobs but to say they were nosy was an understatement.
‘I can manage from here, Rhonda,’ he told her, smiling at Tasha with what he hoped was a brisk, professional nod. ‘You can go.’
‘Oh, but Mrs Raymond—’
‘Mrs Raymond is my late half-brother’s widow,’ he told her. He might as well. Rhonda would have asked Tasha to fill in a patient form and she’d have probably figured her history before he had. ‘I imagine she’s here on family business. There’s no need for you to stay.’
Rhonda reluctantly gathered her belongings and departed.
Tasha was left with Tom. She felt ill.
What was she doing here?
She knew what she was doing here. She was here because she was desperate. She had to have help.
I can manage alone. It had been her mantra when her parents had been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan when she’d been in her teens. It had held her up when Paul had died on Everest.
Two days ago it had crumbled.
Paul had been big-boned and muscular, his tall frame made larger by pushing himself to the limits of endurance in every possible physical endeavour.
This man was his half-brother and she hardly knew him.
Tom’s hair was a deep brown, like Paul’s, but sun-bleached at the tips as if he spent time in the surf she could see outside his surgery window. He was taller than Paul, six feet two or three. His blue eyes were creased at the edges and his skin was tanned. He was lean, muscled, taut. Another who pushed his physical limits? Who thought risks were fun?
She couldn’t help it. She shuddered.
She was here because she needed him. Needing another Blake? The thought made her feel ill.
‘Tasha,’ he said softly, and his attention was all on her. ‘How can I help?’
It would have been a shock to see her, she thought. It had been a surprise to meet him at Paul’s funeral. This man and Paul had never been permitted to be brothers.
‘My mother would disown me if she ever caught me talking to that side of the family,’ Paul had told her. ‘Which always seemed a shame. When I was a kid my father took me on a holiday, supposedly just father and son. Unbeknown to my mother, he invited my half-brother, too. Tom’s four years older than me and I thought he was cool. Kind, too, to a kid who trailed after him. But of course Mum found out and hit the roof and as a kid I never saw him again. We met a couple of times later on with Dad, but then we lost touch. In an odd way, though, it’s always seemed like I have a brother. If anything happened to me, Tasha, I reckon you could go to him.’
If anything happened to him. Like being crushed by tons of ice on Everest.
She hadn’t needed Tom then, though, and she’d made a vow. She’d never need anyone again. Not like she’d needed her parents or thought she’d needed Paul. Paul had made her world crumble even before he’d been killed.
So what was she doing now, asking for help from another Blake? Paul and his father had both been charming, undependable womanisers. Why should this man be different?
Because she needed him? Because she’d taken yet another risk and failed.
Her last risk.