Her Real Family Christmas

Available in stores

Mills & Boon Medical Romance

November 2013

ISBN: 9780263899252

 

Harlequin Medical Romance

date: November 2013

ISBN: 9780373069293

Shortlisted for the RoNA Rose Award 2014

Her Real Family Christmas

Dr Stephanie Scott's smile can light up a room, and she certainly catches the eye of obstetric surgeon Daniel Connor! Getting close to hi and his cute-as-a-button daughter isn't an option - she's long since felt she'll never fit into a family. But spending time with Daniel and little Mia raises her hopes - could they really become her longed-for family this Christmas?

Also released as:

  • UK hardback (November 2013, ISBN tbc)
  • UK large print hardback (date and ISBN tbc)
  • Also released in Australian paperback (November 2013, ISBN: tbc).

 


Behind the Book

About once a year, I end up with a cold that turns into croup (and oh, yes, adults can definitely get croup!). One of my readers, Pat Amsden, told me about a case of reactive airways that she'd helped to treat, and that sparked off an idea. Supposing my hero's daughter had reactive airways? And supposing my heroine was the one to treat her? (Thank you, Pat, for giving me that lightbulb!)

I love writing Christmas books, too. But I know some people find Christmas difficult. (I did, before I had children, because my mum died on 19 December and the run-up to Christmas for me is really hard. Having the children made it easier, because I could share their enjoyment in the day.) So my hero, Daniel, is pretty much in that position, having to make Christmas good for his daughter when he really wants to curl up into a ball; and my heroine, Stephanie, has never really had a family Christmas.

So what happens when you have someone who thinks he might have found the woman to help him love again, and she's very wary because her former in-laws were really mean to her and she just doesn't trust families? Add in a gorgeous little girl, a special request to Santa, and a proposal that's just a little bit different, and… well, I hope you enjoy it!

I've dedicated it to Pat Amsden, with thanks for that lightbulb moment.

Read a bit

'It's all right, darling.' Daniel stroked his daughter's hair, and hoped to God that the panic seeping through his veins didn't show in his voice. 'Don't try to talk. Just breathe. In for two, out for two. Good girl. And again. In for two, out for two.'

How could Mia have got so much worse in one short hour?

The old trick of a steamy bathroom helping to calm a child's airways wasn't working. She couldn't stop coughing; and it was a horrible, barking, croupy cough. He'd just bet that if she were wired up to a pulse oximeter, her oxygen stats would be way too low.

He had to act. Now. He needed to take her to hospital.

Should he call an ambulance? No, it'd scare her too much. And in any case he could drive her there quicker than an ambulance could get to his house and back to the hospital.

Except that meant Mia would be on her own in the back of the car, in her seat, with nobody to hold her hand and calm her down. Sure, he could call his mum or his sister and they'd come straight over to help – but that would mean waiting for them to get to his house. And right now he didn't think waiting was an option.

Not for the first time, Daniel wished he wasn't a single dad. That the stupid, selfish elderly driver who'd mown down his wife on the footpath hadn't been so stubborn and had taken a taxi that day, instead of driving a car she really wasn't capable of handling any more.

But wishing wasn't going to bring Meg back. It was pointless and self-indulgent, and he was only letting himself wish it now because he was panicking that he'd let his daughter down. Panicking that he'd lose his precious girl because he hadn't kept a close enough eye on her and realised how bad her symptoms were getting.

What kind of useless father was he?

What kind of useless doctor was he?

He scooped Mia up into his arms. 'I think,' he said softly, 'we need to get you some special medicine for that cough. And we don't have any indoors. So I need to take you to where I work, OK?'

Mia nodded, her brown eyes huge. So like Meg's. Guilt spiked through him; right now he was letting Meg down as well as Mia.

'Good girl. Let's go.' Daniel grabbed a blanket from her room on the way, along with her favourite teddy, and closed the front door behind him. 'Daddy's going to be driving so I can't hold your hand, but Fred Bear's going to give you a special cuddle for me so you don't feel lonely, OK?' He strapped her into her car seat, put Fred Bear into her arms, and arranged the blanket quickly so she wouldn't get cold.

He talked to her all the way to the hospital. All the way from scooping her out of her car seat until they got to the reception of the emergency department. And, all the way, the only thing that he could hear from her was that dreadful deep cough.

To his relief, the triage nurse saw them immediately, and sent her straight through to the paediatric assessment unit.

The doctor on duty wasn't one he knew, but that didn't matter – just as long as she treated his daughter right now.

'Hello, Mia. I'm Dr Stephanie Scott,' the doctor said, crouching down so she was at the child's height.

Mia managed the first syllable of a reply before she started coughing.

'It's OK, sweetheart, you don't have to talk,' Stephanie said. 'I can hear exactly what's wrong with you. What I'm going to do now is put a special mask on your face which will help you breathe a bit better and not cough quite so much, and I'd also like to put a special sleeve on your finger. It won't hurt. It just shines a light through your finger and tells me some numbers that will help me to make you feel better. Is that OK?'

The little girl nodded.

Daniel knew what Stephanie Scott was checking for when she put the oximeter on Mia's finger: pulse and oxygen saturation. Good. Exactly what he would do.

Stephanie looked at the readings and smiled at the little girl. 'That's exactly what I thought it would say. Mia, I'm going to give you some special medicine through another mask that will really help with that cough, and then I need to talk to Daddy for a little bit because I think he's going to find it easier to talk to me than you are, right now. Is that OK with you?'

At the little girl's nod, she glanced over to Daniel. 'I'm going to give her a medicine called adrenalin – it will help a lot with her breathing. And I'm going to do it through a nebuliser so all she has to do is breathe it in. It looks a lot scarier than it is, but she's going to be absolutely fine, OK?'

'OK.' Daniel was holding it together. Just. But he found himself relaxing as he watched her work. Stephanie Scott clearly knew what she was doing and she was really good with Mia, talking her through what she was doing as she hooked the little girl up to the nebuliser, and reassuring her all the while. And that smile – she had the kind of smile that lit up a room.

Daniel caught his thoughts and grimaced. What on earth was he doing, thinking about that sort of thing when his daughter was desperately ill? Especially when he hadn't been involved with anyone since Meg's death, four years ago, and had concentrated on his daughter and his job rather than his social life? Hot shame flooded through his cheeks, mingled with guilt. Right at that moment, he was at the end of his tether and his head felt as if it was going to implode under all the pressure.

'Mr Connor?' Stephanie asked.

He shook himself. 'I'm so sorry. I didn't catch what you said.'

'I was asking if Mia has any family history of asthma or any kind of allergies.'

'No, none.'

'Does Mia wheeze at all or say her chest feels tight or hurts?'

'No.'

'OK. Do you ever notice that Mia's a bit short of breath or her nostrils flare?'

Daniel realised swiftly that Stephanie was running through a list of asthma symptoms. 'No. Is that what you think it is, asthma?'

'It's quite a strong possibility,' she said.

He shook his head. 'Mia just has a cold. They always go to her chest and she ends up with a bad cough – she had bronchiolitis when she was tiny and she was in here for a week on oxygen.'

Stephanie nodded. 'Colds are often worse for little ones after they've had RSV. And I guess seeing her here on oxygen is reminding you of that? It's tough.'

'Yes,' he admitted. It brought back all the nights when he and Meg had taken turns to sit at their tiny baby's bedside, feeding her through a nasogastric tube because the virus had left Mia too exhausted to drink normally. 'I guess I panicked a bit.'

'No, you did exactly the right thing, bringing her in,' Stephanie reassured him. 'She wasn't getting as much oxygen as I'd like, so the medication's going to help a lot. Though I'd also like to admit her overnight and keep an eye on her. So she's had a cold recently?'

'For three or four days. And yesterday it went to that croupy cough.' He sighed. 'Usually a steamy bathroom helps. I get her to drink warm blackcurrant or something like that, and keep her sitting upright on my lap.'

'Which are all exactly the right things to do to treat a cough,' Stephanie said. 'Colds are viral infections, Mr Connor, so antibiotics won't do anything to help and I won't prescribe them, but liquid paracetamol will help to keep Mia's temperature down.'

Daniel thought about telling Stephanie that he was a doctor and he was well aware of the problems with antibiotic resistance, but that wouldn't help Mia – and his daughter was a lot more important than his professional pride. 'I last gave her some liquid paracetamol about four hours ago, so she's due some more now anyway,' he said. 'The steamy bathroom didn't work this time.'

'Does she get many coughs like this?'

'Too many,' he admitted. 'She hates having time off school when this happens, but she gets so tired and the cough just won't stop.'

Stephanie looked thoughtful. 'Has your family doctor prescribed corticosteroids for her?'

'No.'

'It's usually a treatment for asthma, but it's also very good for reducing inflammation in airways when children have this sort of virus. And I should explain that corticosteroids are the same kind of steroids that the body produces naturally, not the sort you associate with bodybuilders.'

Yes, it was way, way too late now to tell Stephanie Scott that he was a doctor; it would just embarrass them both. But Daniel liked the clear way she explained things. It was a pity she was on the emergency department team, as he had a feeling that she'd be good with neonates. Unless she was a locum, maybe? He'd check that when he was back on duty and, if she was a locum, he'd get Theo to add Stephanie to their list. She'd be a real asset to their team.

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