on December 1st 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
A baby for Christmas…and a father too?
When nurse Abbie Cook meets gorgeous Scottish paramedic Callum Baird there’s an instant attraction. But the timing couldn’t be more wrong…
Abbie’s best friend Emma is about to give birth to a longed-for surrogate baby for her. And Callum has responsibilities at home that mean he can’t commit to Abbie .
As Christmas approaches Callum and Abbie cannot deny the passion between them. But will the sudden arrival of baby Gracie give them the miracle they long for?
The Ultimate Christmas Gift
Best friends, a surrogate baby, and a chance for love…
It was the beginning of spring, so theoretically Queenstown should have been warming up from the previous long cold months, but there was still a good dusting of snow on the tops of the mountains and a cruel wind whipped across the helipad, liberating Abbie’s unruly mane from the clips and elastic that were supposed to hold it all in place. Really, longer length was theoretically easier to look after but would she get a mum’s bob when the baby came? Her heart thrilled a little at the thought, and she laughed at the image in her head of her being all mumsy with a short, neat, practical bob, at the thought of being a mumsy mummy after so long trying.
She was trying to fix the wayward hair neatly back under control when a chopper’s chugging split the air. No time for vanity.
What am I supposed to do?
She ran through the protocols in her head and hoped she’d remember them under stress. But the Intensive Care Paramedics and crew knew what they were doing; she’d learnt that much over the last few months. She’d met them all and been impressed with everyone so far.
Soon enough the chopper door slid open and a man dressed in bright red paramedic dungarees jumped down. Shane, the town’s senior paramedic and old family friend, wrapped her in a hug, said something she couldn’t hear over the chopper blades and bundled her towards the helicopter.
Through the open door, she could see more crew. Oh. A new one. He had a shock of dark hair. Celtic colouring, like her late grandad. Irish heritage, maybe? Perfect skin. Blue eyes. Nice mouth. A smattering of stubble, which made him look rugged and a little dangerous.
Back to his eyes—because she wanted to take a second look—they really were quite the brightest of blues, like the Queenstown sky on a crisp winter morning.
Where the hell had that thought come from?
Mr Nice Eyes raised his eyebrows as he met her gaze. Out of nowhere, she felt a strange fluttery feeling in her stomach.
A medivac! Exciting! She was moving up in the world!
Shane coughed, nudging her forward, and she drew her eyes away from the new guy. Now…what the hell was she supposed to do?
With the touchdown being as choppy as a protein shake in a blender, Intensive Care Paramedic Callum Baird’s stomach had been left somewhere ten metres above Queenstown hospital. He breathed in the rush of cold air blasting through the open door.
November. New Zealand spring, apparently, and it was still freezing; as cold as a Scottish winter and windier than the top of Ben Nevis.
A diminutive girl had appeared in the doorway. Her face was almost covered by earmuffs and a bright red woolly hat with huge pompom, plus a matching scarf pulled up over her mouth. All Cal could see was her eyes. A dark penetrating brown that showed her to be at once apprehensive and excited. A common rookie air ambulance reaction. She pulled down her scarf and grinned. ‘Hi, I’m Abbie. Staff nurse in ED. I was told to hitch a ride, see what you do out in the wild.’
‘Er…hello.’ Cal shifted over in the tiny space, glancing over at his companion, Shane, who was leading this shift.
Shane nodded back and smiled at the girl; clearly, he knew her and liked her.
‘Where should I sit?’ Her eyes danced around the cabin, her hands moving as she spoke, a vibrancy he hadn’t seen before in anyone.
Shane lumbered up into the chopper, wheezing as he sat down. Poor bugger was just at the back end of the flu and letting everyone know about it. ‘Shift over, Callum, make some room for our guest.’
It was none of Cal’s business, but there was barely enough room in here as it was. Plus they’d have to fit the patient on the gurney and work on him if necessary. ‘Going to be cosy.’
‘It won’t be for long. We can see Ben Lomond from here.’ Abbie shuffled in next to him and buckled her belt. ‘So, be gentle with me, eh?’
He looked at those dancing eyes and couldn’t help smiling at her. ‘First time?’
‘First medivac. Not first time in a chopper. Don’t you know, it’s the only way to travel in Queenstown?’ She bit her lip and explained, ‘There’s a lot of heli-sport here; heli-skiing, heli-hiking, that kind of thing.’
With a lurch, they ascended. Helicopters didn’t usually lurch. ‘It’s blowy, that’s for sure.’
‘Coming off the Remarkables. Along with snow, I reckon. There’s a southern blast coming up from Antarctica.’ She nodded and looked away, gripping her hands together. From this angle, he could see the fine shape of her jawline and some tiny wrinkles by her eyes. Not as young as he’d first thought, then. Hair sticking out at all angles from under her hat. Long eyelashes. Geez, it was real cosy in here if he was paying attention to her eyelashes.
Kind of cute, too.
He gave himself a mental telling-off. He had no business thinking any woman was cute. Not when he had responsibilities elsewhere.
Still, a bit of window-shopping never harmed anyone…
‘Great view, isn’t it? I wouldn’t live anywhere else on earth.’ Having raised her voice a notch above the chopper blades’ racket, Abbie pointed to the town below them. The deep blue lake stretched out as far as he could see, fringed on one side by the bustling centre of Queenstown. A string of gondolas swung directly beneath them, slowly scaling one of the mountains that framed the town. A zigzag luge was hundreds of feet below, where kids and adults alike risked life and limb—and had a lot of fun in the process—racing on go-karts down curved tracks to the valley. The girl grinned. ‘You’re not from here, right? Have you been on the luge yet?’
‘Nah. But I’ve scooped a kid up from it and taken him to ED. Nasty grazes and a fractured elbow.’
‘Makes you wary, then, does it? The adrenalin capital of the world?’ Her eyes danced again.
If only she knew. Adrenalin was his best friend and his worst enemy. Before he could answer, the earth started to come up to meet them and the pilot was saying something about a body at two o’clock. Cal scanned the snow, the steep ridge, the jutting rocks and thought he saw something that looked out of place. A flash of blue. Then, yes… ‘He’s over there. I can see him.’
‘Yes. Yes. Watch out, it’s going to be slippery,’ the pilot shouted back, his words barely audible under the chug, chug, chug of the helicopter rotor blades. He’d made a spectacular landing on the only flat bit of mountainside—it took some skill to do that. ‘Got your crampons?’
‘Och, yes. I’ll be fine, no worries.’ If there was one thing Callum Baird knew it was snow. Every kind. The wet, seeping-through-your-clothes kind. The fluffy make-a-decent-snowball kind. And this, the melted and frozen again ice that meant getting a foot grip was challenging. Especially in the sixty-knot winds and poor visibility at the top of Ben Lomond. That last kind of snow was why he was here in the first place. To learn how to make amends, to try to fix things that probably couldn’t be fixed, but to make things better, at least.
Funny, how he’d travelled halfway around the world and found himself on the top of a mountain bearing the same damned name as the place he’d left. Almost as beautiful, too. If the clouds disappeared, and with a bit of spring sunshine it’d be stunning…but he wasn’t here to admire the view.
Bracing against the wind, he jumped from the helicopter then turned and grabbed his paramedic backpack. The crampons slipped on as easily as the memories. He shook the latter off. He was used to doing that. Some days they did as they were told and slunk away, and he managed to get through twenty-four hours before he was drawn back to that fateful night of cold and wet and ice. Other days they hung around him, a sopping, freezing bone-deep helplessness he couldn’t shake. ‘From what I could see, our guy’s up there, to the right—it’s fairly rocky, so we’ll have to do a bit of scrambling. He told Dispatch he’d heard a snap, so we’d best take the scoop with us, too. Hope you enjoy a bit of ice-skating?’
‘Preferably on the flat.’ Abbie assessed the terrain, shook her head, then passed the scoop down. ‘I’m not sure I’d manage a triple Salchow on this hill.’
‘I’m not sure I’d manage a triple Salchow, full stop.’ So, she had a sense of humour. That worked. Especially in conditions like this.
Due to the deteriorating weather, it had been touch and go whether to bring the chopper up here at all, but a man’s life hung, literally, on the edge, so they’d made a call. A good one, as it turned out. The ride had been bumpy, but the wind seemed to be dying down, for now. Which meant hypothermia would be less of an issue for all of them. Two months living in New Zealand and the only thing he could predict about the weather was that it was unpredictable.
‘You got crampons?’
‘Doesn’t every woman carry a pair in her handbag?’ He watched as she delved into her backpack and pulled out a pair of ice shoes, which she fastened like a pro. ‘Ready.’
Although giving him a reassuring smile, she looked frozen through. A tiny waif, with huge eyes and that mess of dark hair that was tumbling from clips in every direction. The huge hi-vis jacket swamped her, and she looked out of her depth on every level.
But determination shone in her eyes.
‘Right. Let’s get to it.’ It was hard going—one step forward, steadying your grip. Another step. The snow had frozen to sheer ice in some places. In others, tufts of grass poked through. The wind pressed them back, the ice halted their steps, so they made it to their patient as quickly as humanly possible.
He was a crumpled heap in bright blue and black walking gear. Alone. Like many walkers here. Starting out on a pleasant day trip, but at least he seemed suitably dressed for the occasion, unlike some Cal came across. Still, even full walking gear didn’t always prevent disaster from striking. You could be perfectly prepared for a night stranded on the mountain, but not for unexpected and complicated fractures, blizzards, nowhere to hide from the biting wind. Frostbite.
A brother lifeless in your arms and there is nothing, nothing you can do but pray. As they neared, Cal did a primary survey. Breathing. Bleeding from his forehead. Bluish lips. Thank God for cell-phone reception, or who knew when he’d have been found. Phoning for help had saved his life.
That was, if they could get him down quickly enough.
The wind might have died a little, but it was still fresh as all hell up here and their guy was shaking. Cold and shock, or worse. Cal remembered to keep his words slow. Enough people had told him they didn’t understand his Scottish accent already. ‘Hello, there. I’m Cal, your knight in shining hi-vis.’
Abbie rolled her eyes. ‘And I’m Abbie. That guy down there is Shane, and we’re going to help get you off the mountain. Now, can you tell us what happened?’
So, she was all about the process. Okay.
Louisa is giving away a signed print copy of The Nurse’s Special Delivery!
For a chance to win, comment with your answer to this question…
Why did Abbie and Callum have to go out in the helicopter in treacherous conditions?
(answer is in excerpt)
~~Review by AnnMarie~~
Abbie Cook, a nurse, has been a widow for 4 years. In that time she’s tried IVF using her late husband’s frozen sperm in order to have their baby. Sadly each attempt has led to a miscarriage. Her best friend, a divorced mum of a lovely little girl offers to be a surrogate and the story begins when Emma is close to full term pregnant with Abbie’s baby!
Callum Baird is a Scottish paramedic temporarily in Queenstown in order to obtain specialist training and certification in mountain rescue. He’s only got a few months there before heading back to his brother in Scotland. A brother who he feels responsible for since he suffered a terrible life-changing accident which he blames himself for. He needs to get his certificate and he needs to get home.
Abbie and Callum are both in places in their lives where the last thing they need is anything upsetting the applecart. But that is exactly what happens when they meet each other on a mountain rescue mission. From the very first moment, there is an attraction between them. An attraction that grows but which they both try to fight because it can’t lead anywhere. Abbie has her baby on the way, plus Emma and her daughter are like family to her. She can’t leave them. Cal has to go back to Scotland, back to take care of his brother. They both have family and responsibilities, now is not the time to fall in love. But, can they stop it happening? What will happen if they can’t, can it only lead to heartache?
This was a beautiful, emotional story filled with exciting medical drama as well as the heartfelt romance between Abbie and Callum. The author’s descriptions of Queenstown were amazingly good, I could just about picture myself there breathing in the fresh mountain air. Callum was a darling, I loved his protective side. Abbie was a wonderfully strong-willed woman, but one that I was glad to see could let people help her when it was warranted. I loved Emma and her gift of being a surrogate to Abbie, it was a very emotional part of the book. There were plenty of light-hearted moments to give relief to the more emotional aspects of the story, it was perfectly balanced and a joy to read. I didn’t start reading it until late at night, and despite being tired, I couldn’t put the book down until I finished it…yes, it was that good and I definitely recommend it.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced readers’ copy of this book.