The Surgeon's Family Miracle
Surgeon Ben Blayden is called to the exotic island of Kapua to provide medical assistance. He is stunned to find the island's doctor is Lily Cyprano, the girl he loved at medical school... and that she has a seven-year-old son - his son - Benjy!
Ben has travelled the world, avoiding emotional ties. Now he finds himself with a ready-made family. Having rescued Lily and their son from a crisis in Kapua, Ben sends them to recover at his ranch in Australia. But will the lure of his rekindled feelings for Lily and the charm of his new-found son give him the courage to join them, and claim the loving family he needs?
"ISN'T Kapua where Lily Cyprano lives?"
Ben was running to a tight schedule, and he sighed as Sam Hopper joined him. Sam was a skilled surgeon but he talked too much. The first Chinook was leaving in an hour. Normally the adrenalin was kicking in by now, making him move with lightning speed, but lately, Hell, what did it mean when prep-aration for disaster seemed routine?
"What?" he asked without looking up, and Sam poured himself coffee and hiked his frame onto the bench where Ben was sorting drugs.
"Lily,'he repeated patiently. "Cute as a button. Half islander, half French. We all thought she looked like Audrey Hepburn, only curvier. Sexiest thing on two legs. She went through med school, then went home to work on the little island where she'd been raised. Wasn't that Kapua?" He paused, sorting old memories. "Hey, weren't you two an item? I was a couple of years above you but I seem to remember, I'm right, aren't I?"
Ben's hands stilled. For a moment—just for a moment—a surge of remembered pain washed through him. Lily.
Then he regrouped. "We're talking about seven years ago,' he snapped. "The trivia you keep in that tiny mind of yours, "
"But Kapua is Lily's island?' "Yeah," Ben said, remembering. He'd been so caught up in the urgency of the job that until now he hadn't thought of the link between Kapua and Lily. But, yes, Kapua was definitely the place Lily called home.
"Is she still there?' "How would I know? I haven't heard from her for years.' "It'd be a joke if she was among the insurgents.' "A great joke," he said dryly, starting to pack again.
They were moving fast. News had hit that morning of an in-surgent attack in Kapua. The islanders needed help, desperately.
Kapua was the biggest of a small group of Pacific islands. Its population was an interracial mix of the original Polynesians and the Spaniards who'd decided to colonise the place centu-ries ago. There was little sign of that colonisation now. The Spaniards had obviously decided the Polynesian lifestyle suited them much better than their own, and the island's laid-back life-style continued to this day.
But things were changing. Ignored by the rest of the world for centuries, the island had recently been made more interest-ing to other countries by the discovery of oil. The island's rulers had shown minimal interest in selling it. To sell the oil could change their lifestyle, but it would leave their descendants without resources when it was finished. The islanders had there-fore decided to make the oil last maybe a hundred years or more, and so far they'd sold nothing.
That decision seemed to suit most islanders, but greed did dreadful things. It took few brains to guess that the insurgents who'd stormed the capital would be interested in only one thing—oil money.
"It's just as well the island has big friends," Sam said, moving on, and Ben nodded. The call for help had been frantic. The in-surgents had blasted their way into Kapua's council compound, and there were reports of deaths and chaos across the island. This wasn't a political take-over where oil wealth would be shared among the whole population. The opinion of those who knew was that this would be a group with outside backing—backing that could potentially cause instability in the entire Pacific region.
With such destruction—with human loss and chaos—there was little choice for Kapua's political allies. Troops were there-fore flying in immediately. Among them would be Lieutenant Ben Blayden, M.D.
She's probably forgotten me, he thought grimly. What's the bet she'll be a fat island mama by now, with six or seven kids?
That thought made him smile. Domesticity would have made Lily happy. All through her medical training she'd ached to be home.
"My island's family to me," she'd told him. "Come and see what it's like."
Not him. He was in too much of a hurry to get where he wanted, and he wanted action. The thought of settling on a remote island and raising children made him shudder.
But Lily, "Lily was great,'he told Sam. "She was a good-looking lady.' "Look her up when you get there.' "Pop in and make a social call during the gunfire?' "Maybe it's not as serious as reported," Sam said optimisti-cally. "Maybe you can persuade the nasty men to put away their guns, pour margueritas for everyone and go lie on the beach."
"As if.' "You never know," Sam said, yawning. "But at least it'll be action. See if you can find a few bodies that need sewing up. Nice interesting cases. I'll be there in a flash."
"You want to take my place?' "After you persuade the boys to put their guns away," Sam said, grinning. "You're the front-line doctor. Not me."
* * *
"I can't find Benjy."
Lily was making her way through the crowded hospital, terror making her numb. All around her were people who needed her. The criminals who'd taken over the compound had shot indiscriminately, seeming to relish the destruction they were creating. The death count at the moment stood at twenty but there were scores of injured, scores of people Lily should be caring for right now.
At first sign of trouble, when Kapua's finance councillor had stumbled through Lily's front door that morning, clutching her bloodied arm, Lily had told Benjy to run to Kira's house.
Kira was Lily's great-aunt, a loving, gentle lady who was like a grandmother to Benjy. She lived well away from the town centre, in an island-style bure by the beach. Benjy would be safe there, Lily had thought as she'd worked her way through the chaos of that morning.
Then, at midday, an elderly man had stumbled into the hospital, weeping. Kira's neighbour.
"Kira," the man had wept. "Kira.' Somehow Lily had finished treating an islander she'd been working on. A bullet had penetrated the man's thigh, causing massive tissue damage. He'd need further surgery but for the moment the bleeding had been controlled.As soon as she'd been able to step away from the table she'd run, to find that Kira's hut had been burned, to find Kira dead and to find no sign of her son.
She'd stood on the beach and looked at the carnage and felt sick to the stomach. Dear God,
Where was her little boy? Nowhere. By the time she returned to the hospital she was shaking so badly that her chief nurse took control, holding her arms in his broad hands and giving her a gentle shake.
"What do you mean, you can't find Benjy? Isn't he with Kira?' "Kira's dead. Shot in the back, Pieter. That kind, loving old lady. And Benjy's gone. There's no one on the beach at all.'Her breath caught on a sob of terror. "Where would he have gone? Why isn't he here?" She was close to collapse, and the big islander pushed her into a chair, knelt before her and took both her hands in his.
"Maybe he's with Jacques.' "I don't know where Jacques is either. Oh, God, if he's, ' She buried her face in her hands.
But Pieter was hauling her hands down, meeting her gaze head on. He was the island's most senior nurse, sixty or so, big and gentle and as patient as any man she'd met. The look of fear in his eyes now made her more terrified than she'd been in her life. If Pieter was scared,
But he had himself more together than she did. "So Benjy's probably with Jacques," he told her. "Or he'll be hiding. It's a good sign, Lily. Benjy's the most sensible six-year-old I know. If we look for him or for Jacques, it'll only jeopardise us all. You were crazy to have left the hospital yourself."
He hesitated then, but they had to face facts. "I'm sorry, but you need to block Benjy out, Lily. You're our only doctor and we need you. Trust Jacques to take care of him. For now Benjy's on his own and so are we."
It was dusk as the Chinook carrying Ben hovered over the northern beach, its searchlights illuminating the sweep of sand while they assessed whether it was safe to land.
"We have the north beach secured," they'd been told on a shaky radio connection by a deputy head of council who'd seemed to be having trouble speaking. "They don't seem to be near. And the hospital's ours. That's all."
A problem with an idyllic island existence, thought Ben grimly, was that it left everyone exposed to the nasties of this world. Life in paradise is all very well if everyone feels that way. The majority of islanders hadn't owned guns. They'd never dreamed of needing them and it had left the way for the few to run riot.
A burst of gunfire came from their left and the pilot swung the Chinook round so the floodlights pierced the forest.
"That's M16s," the sergeant sitting beside Ben told them. "I recognise the firing pattern. They sound too far away to be accurate. Reports are that most of these guys were already on the ground. We're therefore acting on the assumption that they won't have high-calibre weapons. They'll give us trouble on the ground but if that's all they have, I say land."
"OK, we're going in," the pilot said. "You know your job, guys. Let's go."
Pieter had personally brought another two units of plasma into the operating theatre. He was needed outside, Lily knew, but she also knew he was treating her as a patient—a patient who he needed to stay on her feet. The woman under her hands was the island's housing councillor. The wound to her chest was deep and ugly. It was a miracle the shot had missed her heart. All Lily's attention had to be on her, but Pieter knew that she needed at least some hope.
He was giving it to her now. "Friendly troops are landing on Fringe Beach," he said. "A couple of new patients have come in from the rainforest and they saw them land. We've radioed for help and it's come."
Lily was hardly listening. "Benjy," she was whispering over and over again. "Benjy, "
"How many?" one of the theatre nurses asked, and Lily focused enough to hear terror in her voice that matched her own. Any minute now the few armed men they had could be subdued. The insurgents could take this place over.
And outside, Somewhere in this island was her six-year-old son.
"Three helicopters so far."
Lily could feel a tiny lessening of terror in the theatre staff at the news. Outside help?
"These men are cowards," Pieter said into the stillness. "They've left this place alone because they know we have guns here. They'll shoot us but they won't risk being shot them-selves. They won't have counted on outside help so soon. I'm guessing they hoped to bring more military supplies—maybe more men—onto the island before that."
"If they're not already here, ' "If they had full military capability, they'd have shot down the helicopters," Pieter said soundly and Lily thought, Benjy, Benjy, Benjy.
"Many of the islanders are hiding," Pieter added, glancing at her. "Long may they stay hidden."
Benjy. "Is there any news from the council compound?" a nurse asked, and Lily clamped off a blood vessel and waited for the site to be swabbed. She felt sick.
"We don't know what's happened there," Pieter said. "All we know is that those who ran from the building were shot."
"Were those inside shot, too?' "Who would know?" Pieter said heavily. "There's no access. Anyone who goes near the place is met with gunfire." He handed over the plasma, glanced at Lily to see if she was OK—was anyone OK just now?—and turned away.
"There are three more urgent cases,'he told Lily dully. "Hand over here as soon as you can."
She worked all that night and into the next morning, block-ing out everything but medical imperatives. Or she almost blocked out everything. There was so much need. They needed a dozen doctors and there was only her. She worked like an automaton, her silent plea a background throbbing that could never stop.
Benjy, Benjy, Benjy. "You need to sleep," Pieter told her at four in the morning, and she shook her head.
"How can I sleep?' "I feel the same. But we're no good to anyone if we collapse.' "We're good until we collapse," Lily said bleakly, turning to the next stretcher. A burst of gunfire in the distance made her wince. "That's the way it's going to be."