* * *

It was almost lunchtime before Bella felt that she could leave. The last of the children had been seen and sent home and the department was more or less back to normal. Granted, there was a lot of paperwork that still needed doing, but she felt that she could justifiably leave that to Mac. After all, it was supposed to be her day off and there was no reason to feel guilty about going home. It was only when she was halfway across the car park that she remembered that she had forgotten to ask Mac for her keys.


She sighed as she turned round and headed back. She could have done without having to speak to him again, if she was honest. What he had told her earlier in the day about his family had affected her far more than she would have expected. She couldn’t help thinking how hard it must have been for him to grow up knowing that he had been rejected by his grandparents.

Bella gave herself a mental shake as she reached the main doors leading into the hospital. She had to stop thinking about Mac all the time. Maybe she did feel incredibly aware of him, but she couldn’t afford to let it take over her life the way it was doing. The sooner she got it into her head that he was just a colleague, the simpler it would be.

She was just about to enter the hospital when Mac himself appeared. He smiled ruefully as he held up her car keys.

‘You need these, don’t you? Sorry! I should have handed them back before.’

‘Don’t worry about it.’

Bella dredged up a smile as she took the keys off him but it was hard to behave naturally. Why had she never noticed before what a gorgeous shade of blue his eyes were, like the sky on a summer evening? And how come she had never realised just how tall he was, not to mention how lean and fit his body looked? Her thoughts skittered this way and that so that it was a moment before she realised that he had asked her a question.

‘Sorry,’ she said hurriedly. ‘What did you say?’

‘I was just wondering how it went with Freya’s parents.’

Bella felt a shiver ripple through her at the sound of his deep voice. She had to make a conscious effort not to show the effect it was having on her. If she hadn’t noticed his eyes or his physique before then she certainly hadn’t noticed how seductive his voice sounded!

‘Not too good, I’m afraid. They wouldn’t believe me at first, insisted that it couldn’t be their daughter and that there must have been a mix-up with the names. Then when I took them in to see Freya, they lost it completely and started shouting at her.’ She sighed, deliberately reining in her wayward thoughts. ‘It was so bad, in fact, that I had to ask them to leave in the end.’

‘Sounds grim. How did Freya take it?’

‘Pretty much as you’d expect. It took me ages to calm her down but it’s a lot to deal with at her age.’

‘It is. What’s going to happen when she leaves hospital? Are her parents going to take her home and support her?’

‘I doubt it, from what I heard.’ Bella shrugged. ‘I’ve spoken to Social Services and they’ve promised to visit her. They said that they will arrange accommodation for her and the baby when she’s discharged. In the unlikely event that Mr and Mrs Watson change their minds, they will cancel the arrangements.’

‘I’m not sure which is worse,’ Mac said grimly. ‘Being dumped in some grotty flat or going home and being faced with constant recriminations. That won’t do her or the child any good, will it?’

‘It won’t. But there’s not much we can do except pray for a miracle,’ Bella said sadly.

‘Pray that Freya’s parents will have a change of heart, you mean?’ He shook his head. ‘In my experience, it rarely happens so I wouldn’t hold out too many hopes on that score.’

‘Your grandparents never changed their minds?’ Bella said quietly, hearing the echo of pain in his voice.

‘No. Oh, Mum tried to persuade them to see sense, but they were adamant that they wanted nothing to do with her or me. I never met them, in fact.’

‘How sad. Not just for you and your mother, but for them too. They could have had the pleasure of watching you grow up if they hadn’t taken such a rigid stance.’

‘Obviously, they didn’t see it that way. The shame of their unmarried daughter having a baby outweighed everything else.’

‘I can’t understand why people feel like that,’ Bella admitted. ‘Oh, I know my parents were more interested in their careers than in me, but I’d like to think they would have supported me if I’d found myself in that position.’

‘There wasn’t much chance of that happening, though, was there?’ Mac observed drily.

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