His spirits were at an all-time low as he saw his patient out and returned to the desk. He paused when he spotted Bella sitting at the computer. There was nobody else around so maybe this was the moment he’d been waiting for. The thought of losing her if she went back to Tim was bad enough, but it would be so much worse if they parted on such bad terms. He needed to make his apologies and at least try to salvage something from the situation even if it was all too little. He took a couple of hurried strides then stopped when the emergency telephone rang. It felt as though he was being torn in two. Part of him desperately wanted to ignore the phone and speak to Bella, while another part urged him to respond to the summons.

In the end duty won. Mac snatched up the receiver, listening intently while the operator relayed the details. There’d been an accident at a level crossing on the outskirts of town. A train had hit a car that had stalled on the track and a number of people had been seriously injured, including several children. Mac confirmed that they would send a team and hung up then pressed the call button to summon the rest of the staff. Once everyone had gathered around the desk, he explained what had happened and what they would do.


‘Bella, Laura and I will attend the accident as we’ve all done the major incident training course. That leaves Helen, Trish and Bailey to cover here.’ He turned to Janet. ‘Can you phone Adam and ask him to come in?’ he asked, referring to their consultant, Adam Danvers. ‘He was at a finance meeting this morning but it should be over by now so it shouldn’t be a problem.’

Once everything was organised, Mac led the way to the room where they kept all their equipment. After they had donned weatherproof suits, they each collected a backpack containing everything they might need, from basic dressings to surgical instruments. It was impossible to foretell what they would have to deal with and they needed to be prepared. A rapid response car was waiting when they exited the building. Bella didn’t look at him as she climbed into the back and beckoned to Laura to sit beside her.

Mac’s mouth compressed as he slid into the passenger seat. He had missed his chance to try and sort things out with her and, if she had anything to do with it, he wouldn’t get another opportunity either. Maybe he should think about cutting short his contract and signing on for the next aid mission? He had planned on staying in England for a while, but it would be better than having to work with Bella if she and Tim got back together. To see her day in and day out, knowing that she didn’t love him but someone else, would be unbearably painful. Quite frankly, he doubted if he could handle it.

He closed his eyes as they set off with lights flashing and siren blaring, trying to blot out the thought of the dark and lonely future that lay ahead of him. Without Bella in his life, it felt as though he had very little to look forward to.

CHAPTER TEN

IT WASN’T THE FIRST major incident that Bella had attended but it had to be the most serious. The train was a high-speed express and many of its carriages had been derailed. The fire and rescue crews were working their way along the track, searching for any injured passengers, and by the time they arrived there were over a hundred people gathered at the side of the railway line. It was more than a little daunting to be faced with so many people who needed help, but Mac took it in his stride.

‘We need to find out where the children are. It may seem hard-hearted to ignore the adults but there are other teams of medics who can deal with them. Our brief is to concentrate on the kids first and foremost.’

Bella nodded, feeling her initial panic subside in the face of his calmness. ‘So what do you want us to do?’ she asked, her heart lifting when he smiled at her. She battened it down, knowing how easy it would be to allow herself to think that it meant something. Mac had proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that he didn’t really love her and she must never forget that.


‘I’ll have a word with the officer in charge. Incident control said that there were two children who’d been seriously injured, although there may be others. However, we’ll start with them.’

‘Fine. Laura and I will go and check on that group over there,’ Bella replied dully, confining her thoughts to what was happening. There was no point thinking about how much she loved him when it wouldn’t make any difference. Mac may have thought that he loved her; however, the way he’d reacted yesterday proved it wasn’t true. If he had loved her, as he’d claimed, then he would have known that she would never go back to Tim!

Her heart felt like lead as she and Laura made their way over to a group of teenagers huddled beside the track. There were three boys and two girls in the party and they all looked deeply shocked. One of the boys had a large gash on his forehead so Bella cleaned it up and applied butterfly stitches to hold the edges together. He would need to go to hospital and have a scan to check that he hadn’t suffered a head injury. The rest of the group had suffered only minor cuts and bruises so she told them to wait there until they were told they could go home. They all had mobile phones and they’d called their parents so she guessed it wouldn’t be long before they were collected.

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