The Consultant's Christmas Proposal

Available in stores

Mills & Boon Medical Romance

November 2005

ISBN: 0263843408

 

Harlequin Medical Romance

December 2005

ISBN: 0373065337

Consultant Toby Barker has a secret...

He has been in love with his best friend, beautiful Dr Saskia Haywood, for years.

Dr Saskia Haywood also has a secret...

She's struggling to come to terms with an illness that could ruin not only her ability to work on Maternity, but also her dreams of having children.

Now both secrets are out!

Saskia knows of Toby's desire for a family = something she'll never be able to give him - but what she doesn't realise is that Toby will do anything for her. Starting with a Christmas proposal she'll never forget!

Also released in the UK as a hardback (September 2005, ISBN: 0263188442) and a large print hardback (May 2006, ISBN: 0263188868). Also released in Australia in paperback (December 2005, ISBN: 0733565530).

 


Behind the Book

I'd planned to write a GP book about a year before I wrote this one. It kept getting 'bumped' by other books - then, when I finally started writing it, by the time I got to chapter 3 I knew it didn't work. The problem was the hero. So I wrote a completely different book... and then went back to it. I liked the conflict, and didn't want to waste it - so I switched it to a hospital setting and changed the hero and heroine's backgrounds completely.

I'm using two of my favourite settings in this one: maternity and paediatrics.

So we have Saskia, only child of two high achievers - who thinks her parents never wanted her, that marriage is a mistake, and she's very independent. Except... she's been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. She can't continue being an obstetrician, but she's only ever wanted to be a doctor. So how is she going to cope?

We also have Toby, her best friend, who's been in love with her since the moment he met her but didn't think he stood a chance of anything more than friendship. He wants a huge family - but Saskia is taking antirheumatic drugs which means she have children unless she stops taking her medication.

In the meantime, they're looking after their best friend's young children during a crisis - and acting like a family. Can Toby persuade Saskia to make it for real? But if she says yes, it means he'll have to give up his dream of having a family, or she'll have to give up her independence. If she says no, he's lost the love of his life. Can they turn it into a win-win situation?

It's dedicated to my big sister, Jackie.

Toby cooks Saskia a banana cake - this is a favourite at fundraising cake sales.

Read a Bit

CHAPTER ONE

Saskia groaned. 'Oh, no. Why does my mobile phone have to ring, the very second that my fajitas are about to turn up?'

'You're not on call, are you?' Toby asked, pausing before he poured her a glass of wine.

'Course not. I wouldn't have let you order the wine if I was.' She scowled and fished her phone out of her handbag, then frowned as she looked at the display. 'Lydia?' She hadn't expected her best friend to call, tonight. Anticipation prickled down the back of her neck. Paul was in Canada on business. Was something wrong with the children? She answered swiftly. 'Hi, Lyd. Everything OK?' She tried to ignore the sizzling dish placed before her by the waitress.

'Saskia, thank God you answered. It's Paul.'

Saskia's smile vanished as she heard the panic in Lydia's voice. 'What's happened?'

'The hospital called from Vancouver. He's got appendicitis. Saskia, supposing it bursts before they remove it?'

'Course it won't. They'll keep him under obs before the operation.'

'He could end up with peritonitis. Or an abscess.'

'True, but unlikely.'

'The incision wound might get infected.'

Saskia's eyes crinkled at the corners. 'Lydia, will you stop panicking? That's the worst thing about being a qualified doctor. You know all about the worst-case scenarios.' Lydia was a GP, currently on maternity leave.

'Why did it have to happen while he was away on business? I can't get there. He's ill and he needs me, and I'm thousands of miles away.'

'Lyd, stop panicking. If they've already called you, that means he's probably in the operating theatre right now - so you wouldn't be able to be with him right now anyway. It also means they've got to him in time, the appendix is probably in a kidney dish somewhere, and they're probably sewing him up even as we speak.'

Lydia dragged in a breath. 'Yeah. Sorry. I'm. . .' Her voice tailed off.

'Worried sick. Course you are, Lyd. Anyone would be. But they'll ring you as soon as he's in Recovery and he's come round from the anaesthetic,' Saskia soothed. 'Look, do you want Toby and me to come over and sit with you, while you're waiting to hear?'

'I'm just being wet,' Lydia said, sounding embarrassed.

'No. You're missing Paul, you never sleep well when he's away - and I bet the second you dropped off, last night, Madam woke you up because she's teething. So you're sleep-deprived and husband-deprived, not to mention probably hormonal.' Helena, Lydia's youngest child, was only five months old. 'And we're your best mates, so we'll forgive you.' She put her hand over the phone and looked at Toby. 'Did you follow all that?' she asked.

He nodded. 'I'll get the fajitas "to go". We'll warm them up again when we get to Lyd's.'

She nodded. 'I'll fill you in on the rest of it, in the car.' She took her hand off the mouthpiece again. 'Lyd? We're on our way.'

***

Five minutes later, they were on their way to the little Derbyshire village where Lydia lived. Toby stole a glance at the woman sitting in the passenger seat, who was making a list on her electronic organiser. Typical Saskia. Practical, organised everything and everyone, moved at the speed of light. . . He hadn't been able to resist buying her a T-shirt for her birthday with 'Superwoman' emblazoned across it. In Latin. She'd loved it.

The problem was, he couldn't get a certain picture out of his mind. Dr Saskia Hayward, wearing nothing but that T-shirt. And peeling it off. . . for him.

He fought to control himself. That was the other problem. Saskia made his knees weak: curvy, dark-haired, with grey eyes that could skewer you or soothe you, depending on her mood, and a mouth that would give any red-blooded man palpitations. But she didn't feel the same way about him. As far as she was concerned, Toby Barker was the medical student she'd met thirteen years ago - a shy, nerdy, bespectacled boy who'd become one of her two best friends. And 'best friend' meant no touching. Well, not touching in the way he wanted to touch her. A casual arm around her shoulder, a hug or a kiss on the cheek was fine. Saskia was the tactile sort, so it was a kind of sweet torture. Enough to make him want more, yet not enough to satisfy.

As troubles always came in threes, that was the third thing. Saskia went through men at speed, too. They almost never lasted longer than two dates. And two dates wouldn't be enough for Toby. Particularly as they'd mean he would be out of her life for good afterwards. At least being her best friend meant that he got to spend time with her.

All the same, he kept wondering what it would be like to kiss her. Well, actually, he knew what it was like to kiss her. He'd done it at a Christmas party two years ago, under the mistletoe. It had blown his mind. But then he'd seen the shock and horror in her face, so he'd started slurring his words and pretending he was drunk.

On sparkling mineral water.

But she'd accepted it, particularly as the next day he'd claimed he had a mammoth hangover and asked her to promise him that he hadn't done anything really embarrassing or stupid at the party, the previous night. To his relief, she hadn't mentioned the kiss. So he'd got away with it. Just.

Though the kiss still haunted him. The softness of her skin. The way she tasted. And, oh, the way her mouth had opened under his. It wasn't long until Christmas. The party season would start in a couple of weeks. All he had to do was make sure they went to one together, then manoeuvre her over to some mistletoe and -

'Tobe, are you listening?'

'No,' he admitted. Not that he was going to tell her what he'd been thinking about. That was definitely something he needed to keep under wraps.

'I said, Lyd's fretting because she wants to see Paul. Until she can see for herself that he's fine, she'll be impossible. But no way can she take the kids with her. Apart from the fact that it's a long-haul flight, you can't expect a baby and a three-year-old to hang around a hospital all day and give Daddy lots of peace and quiet while he recovers from abdominal surgery.'

'They probably haven't arranged a passport for Helena yet, anyway,' Toby said.

'You're right. I hadn't thought of that. She's going to be caught right in the middle - wanting to be with Paul, but not wanting to leave the kids.' Saskia sighed. 'If she does go, she'll need someone to hold the fort. Her parents are in New Zealand, visiting her sister - and Paul's parents won't be able to do it.' Paul's mother was in the early stages of Alzheimer's and they both knew it wasn't fair to expect Paul's father to look after his grandchildren and his wife. She drummed her fingers on her knees. 'Which leaves me.'

'Saskia, can I just remind you that you have a full-time job? You're a senior registrar - you've been acting consultant since Jim's been on sick leave getting his hernia sorted. No way are you going to get a couple of weeks' leave at this kind of short notice.'

'I don't need to. I'll cope,' she said airily.

That was stating the obvious. Saskia never saw problems, only solutions. She was a born coper. Give her ten seconds, and she'd have the whole thing planned out.

Toby began counting in his head. He got to three before she announced, 'It's easy. I'll move in to the cottage while Lyd's away. I can drop the kids off at nursery before work, and pick them up at the end of the day.'

'And when you're on a late shift? Nurseries are open until six p.m. at the latest,' he pointed out. 'Actually, they don't open until eight, so it doesn't fit with early shift, either. And even if you did manage by some miracle to get the kids in the hospital crèche until Lyd's home again, it's not fair to add another layer of disruption to their lives.'

'I suppose so,' she admitted, clearly unwillingly.

'Look, Saskia, we all know you're Superwoman, but you really can't do your job, run Lyd's house as well as your own and take over as a mum of two, all on your own.' He waved her protest away. 'It's more than just being flung in at the deep end. If Lyd wants to go over to Paul and you take over the reins from her, you're going to need help - preferably from someone who doesn't work shifts, or at least someone who's on an early when you're on a late, so one of you can do the nursery run while the other's at work.'

'And your solution is?'

Typical Saskia. She expected people to follow her lead and come up with answers, not questions. Well, he was a match for her on that front. 'I'll help you.'

She frowned. 'What do you know about kids?'

He tapped his index finger thoughtfully on the steering wheel. 'Hmm, let me see. I'm a paediatrician.' Not to mention that he'd been a qualified doctor for three years longer than Saskia had. 'Does that count?'

She snorted. 'Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. And working in Paeds isn't the same as living with kids, is it?'

'Says the woman who works with foetuses and babies under a week old. I've got as much childcare experience as you have. I've babysat for Lyd.' He was the first choice if Paul was away and Saskia and Lydia wanted a girly night out. In fact, now he thought about it, he'd babysat the children more often than Saskia had.

She sighed. 'You're probably right.'

'No "probably" about it. I couldn't cope all on my own, either. This needs teamwork.'

She chuckled, obviously picking up on the fact that he was deliberately imitating her management style. 'All right, all right. Thank you. I accept. But don't tell anyone we're living together, will you?'

Why? Had she met someone?

'Or it'll ruin my reputation,' she added.

It was only then that Toby realised he was holding his breath. He grinned - more from relief that she wasn't about to embark on another romantic disaster than in reaction to her teasing. 'Ha, more like it'll ruin mine. You're the one who has strings of men and never gives any of them a third date!'

'Yeah, and you're the one who doesn't date at all.'

'Too busy with me job, luv,' he fenced, in his best fake Yorkshire accent. Yet another lie. But how could he tell her the truth? There was only one woman he wanted. And he was waiting patiently until she realised that he was the one she'd been looking for all her life.

It was just taking a bit longer than he'd hoped.

From the book The Consultant's Christmas Proposal by Kate Hardy.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance
Publication Date: November 2005
ISBN: 0263843408
Copyright © 2005 by Pamela Brooks
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information surf to http://www.eHarlequin.com

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Reviews

From Cataromance - Romantic and beguiling - 4.5 stars

Kate Hardy never fails to enchant her readers with her captivating novels. In The Consultant's Christmas Proposal, she brings to life Saskia, a fantastic and richly drawn human being whose blend of strength and vulnerability ensures that readers will not just love her, but look up to and relate to her. And Toby is a hero whose strength, good looks and kind heart will melt the hearts of women everywhere. Kate Hardy has once again written an excellent story about friends becoming lovers which you will struggle to put down. Her irresistible blend of poignant romance, vivid medical scenarios and emotional drama make her one of Mills and Boon's brightest stars!

From Coffee Time Romance - a rare find about an extraordinary love that shines - 5 cups

Ms. Hardy reaches out and touches the reader in many ways in this incredible story that melts the heart. Saskia is a strong character with great courage. She and Toby are a remarkable couple not afraid to face challenges and that is why I give this book a 5.

Stories by Kate Hardy with maternity and neonatal settings

 

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