* * *
Mac was surprised to see the police there when he got back from attending to his patient. He went over to the reception desk and asked Janet what was going on.
‘They brought in a baby that had been left home alone.’ She lowered her voice. ‘From what I overheard just now, they seem to think it’s Freya Watson’s baby.’
‘Really?’ Mac exclaimed.
He glanced round when he heard footsteps, feeling a whole raft of emotions hit him when he saw Bella walking towards him, carrying the baby in her arms. He had never really thought about having children. Although he liked kids, the fact that he had always avoided commitment meant that it had never been an issue before. Now, however, as he looked at Bella holding the baby, he realised all of a sudden what he was missing.
He could picture it now, imagine how wonderful it would be to have a child of his own, a son or a daughter to love and cherish. His vision blurred as the image inside his head grew stronger. He could see a chubby little baby laughing up at him from its mother’s arms now. It was only when the mother’s face started to become clearer that Mac realised what was happening and groaned. Picturing Bella as the mother of his children was something he mustn’t do! It was a mistake of gigantic proportions to allow himself that much licence. Maybe Bella would have children one day, but one thing was certain: their father would be someone very different from him, a man who came from a background similar to her own.
* * *
Bella was relieved when her shift finally ended. It had been a stressful night for so many reasons. The police were still searching for Freya Watson and it was obvious that they were becoming increasingly concerned as time passed and they failed to find any trace of her. The baby had been placed with a foster carer so at least she had the comfort of knowing that the infant was being looked after. However, as she left the hospital, she couldn’t shake off the feeling of gloom that weighed her down.
Tim had only wanted to have a child with her to stop her divorcing him—he’d certainly not wanted one before then. And Mac had been at pains to ensure that nothing untoward happened in that department either. Even though she couldn’t blame him for behaving responsibly, she couldn’t rid herself of the thought that her inability to get in touch with her emotions had a huge bearing on the way both men had acted. The future had never seemed bleaker than it did right then and she realised that there was no point going home as she would never be able to sleep with all these thoughts whizzing around her head.
She left the hospital and headed to a supermarket on the outskirts of town that should open shortly. She hadn’t done any food shopping for several weeks and the cupboards were bare. She filled a trolley then paid for her shopping and loaded everything in to her car. At least it had helped to distract her but, as she set off home, she found the same thought churning round and round inside her head: unless she got in touch with her emotions she would never be truly happy.
Maybe it was the stress, but somehow she must have taken a wrong turning because she found herself on a road she had never driven along before. She drove on for a few more miles, searching for any clues as to where she was. The car’s satellite navigation system wasn’t any help; it just showed an unmarked road and nothing else. When the road suddenly petered out into a track, Bella decided to turn round rather than risk going any further and getting completely lost. She carefully manoeuvred the car, shunting it backwards and forwards across the narrow track. She had almost completed the turn when there was an almighty bang from the rear of the vehicle.
She got out, her heart sinking when she discovered that one of the back wheels had hit a boulder and had buckled under the impact. There was no way that she could change the wheel herself, but maybe there was a farm up ahead and people who would help her?
Lifting her bag out of the car, she started walking. Although it was almost the middle of the morning, heavy black clouds hung overhead, obscuring the tops of the surrounding mountains, and she shivered. Although she was wearing a jacket, it wouldn’t be much use if it started to rain.
She must have walked a couple of miles before she decided to give up. There had been no sign of a farmhouse and it seemed pointless carrying on. She turned back, grimacing when she felt the first drops of rain start to fall. Within seconds, it was pouring down, sheets of water falling from the sky and soaking through her clothing. Bella walked as fast as she could but the increasingly slippery ground hampered her progress and it took her twice as long to get back to the car.
She climbed in, shivering violently as she started the engine and switched on the heater. Digging in to her bag, she found her mobile phone, intending to call the local garage and ask them to come out and fetch her. It was only when she saw the phone’s blank screen that she realised the battery was flat. Tipping back her head, she groaned. What a perfect end to a miserable night!