It seemed like it was just yesterday Isla had stared wide-eyed at the pregnancy test and now she was struggling to keep her balance. Literally and figuratively.
Tears prickled at the top of her nose as the all too vivid reminder that she was going to be doing this on her own filled her vision.
‘You sure you’re alright, darlin’?’ The delivery man kept his hand on her elbow until she nodded, though her eyes remained glued to the hugest bouquet of tulips she thought she’d ever seen.
Countless bouquets passed through ‘The Castle’s’ grand Victorian front doors each day—whisked up curved stairwells gracing window ledges from turret to turret. Not to mention the parades of cute-as-can-be baskets and gift boxes overflowing with teddy bears, biscuits, swirly-topped cupcakes, pillows, balloons. Valentine’s Day had near enough sent her running for the hills. But with the early arrival of spring in London, it seemed the green shoots of blossoming romances were popping up all over the place.
Isla made herself suck in a deep breath of fresh air then heaved out a sigh.
Never before had she expected a bouquet. Never before had she even hoped.
Now that she was approaching her due date?
A split-second image of a six-foot-something, black-haired, azure-eyed doctor in full combat gear blinded her to anything else.
Ugh. She shook her head. Zach was long gone. She’d been stupid to cling to the idea he might come back. Even sillier to imagine him being here to see the birth of the baby boys he didn’t even know he’d fathered.
Trust her to become the victim of a condom malfunction.
She’d never let herself be treated as a victim again. Nor would her children.
She made her own choices. Her own decisions. She’d made that silent vow the day she’d left…well, no one would have called the place she grew up home, but…from the day she’d left Scotland and come down to train as a paediatric nurse, she made a daily promise to the children she cared for here at Paddington’s to ensure no child felt as lonely and unwanted as she had.
A fresh sheen of tears threatened to cloud her eyes when she glimpsed the card nestled amongst the abundant bouquet. It was addressed to ‘London’s Naughtiest and Nicest Nurse.’
It was just the sort of comment Zach would’ve made each time they’d snuck off into the further reaches of the 150-year-old hospital she near enough called home. Three. Perfect. Days.
A rapid-fire set of images lit up her mind so vividly Isla could almost feel his touch.
Strong, capable hands.
Laugh lines crinkling round his blue-as-the-ocean eyes.
His stubbly cheek rubbing against her own soft one.
The rich, full-bodied guffaw of his that made everything and everyone around him smile.
Royal Army Medical Corps Surgeon Major Zachery Keating.
The most vibrant, intelligent, passionate, committed—absent, long-gone—dreamboat a girl could have ever imagined meeting. It would’ve been absolutely perfect if the protection they’d used had worked.
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