‘From what I’ve read, medulloblastomas can grow very rapidly and spread to other parts of the brain as well as to the spinal cord.’

‘That’s right. Chloe needs to be seen by an oncologist ASAP so we shall have to set that up. She’ll probably need radiotherapy as well as chemotherapy if she’s to have any chance of surviving this.’ He shook his head and Bella saw the sorrow in his eyes. ‘I feel sorry for her mother. It’s going to be a huge shock for her.’


‘It will be a lot for her to deal with, especially with having the other children to look after,’ Bella agreed quietly. ‘Just travelling back and forth to hospital while Chloe receives treatment will be a major task with her not having any backup.’

‘It will.’

Mac’s tone was flat. Although there was no hint of censure in his voice, Bella knew that he was thinking about the way she had seemingly deserted Tim in his hour of need. The urge to tell him the truth—the real truth, not the version that Tim was determined to tell everyone—was very strong but she refused to go down that path. It wouldn’t improve Mac’s opinion of her if she tried to apportion blame; it could have the opposite effect, in fact.

It was hard to accept that there was very little she could do, but Bella knew there was no point agonising about it. Switching off the monitor, she turned to leave the office. ‘I’ll go and have a word with Mrs Adams,’ she said over her shoulder. ‘The sooner she knows what’s going on, the better.’

‘Fine. Do you want me to phone Oncology and start the ball rolling?’ Mac offered, following her out to the corridor.

‘If you wouldn’t mind... Oh, they’ve got a new phone number. They’re starting the refurbishments today so they’ve moved temporarily into the old building. I’ll get it for you.’ Bella went to go back into the office and staggered when she cannoned into Mac.

‘Sorry.’ He grinned as he set her safely back on her feet. ‘I didn’t expect you to turn round so suddenly, or that’s my excuse, anyway. It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with me being born clumsy!’

‘No harm done,’ she assured him, although she could feel heat flowing from the point where his hands were gripping her shoulders. She stepped back, setting some much-needed space between them, or much-needed by her, at least. Mac appeared unmoved by the contact. ‘Janet should have Oncology’s new number, now that I think about it,’ she said, hastily squashing that thought. ‘Let me know what they say, won’t you?’

‘Will do.’

He sketched her a wave as he headed to Reception. Bella watched until he disappeared from sight then made her way to the cubicles. She wasn’t looking forward to the next few minutes. Breaking bad news to a parent was always difficult and one of the few things she disliked about her job...

Her breath caught as she felt the heat finally consume her entire body. It felt as though she was on fire, burning up, inside and out, and all because Mac had touched her. She couldn’t recall ever feeling this way before, couldn’t remember when the touch of a man’s hands had set her alight, not even when Tim had made love to her. What did it mean? Or didn’t it mean anything really? Was it simply the lack of intimacy that had made her so susceptible all of a sudden?

Once Tim had become hooked on the painkillers, they had stopped making love. He hadn’t been interested in anything apart from where his next fix was coming from and she hadn’t been able to stand the thought of them being intimate when it wouldn’t have meant anything. It was almost two years since they had slept together and there had been nobody else since, or at least not for her. Was that why she felt so aware of her body all of a sudden, so emotionally charged? It wasn’t Mac’s touch per se that had aroused her but the fact that she had been denied an outlet for her feelings for such a long time?

Bella told herself that it was the real explanation; however, as she entered the cubicle, she knew in her heart that it was only partly true. Maybe the lack of intimacy was a contributing factor but she doubted if she would have reacted this way if another man had touched her the way Mac had done. The truth was that she had always been aware of him even though they had never been anything more than friends. There was something about him that she responded to, even though she had refused to acknowledge it. It made her see just how careful she needed to be. The last thing she wanted was to start craving Mac’s touch when it was obvious how he felt about her.

CHAPTER TWO

IT WAS A busy day but Mac enjoyed every second. Although he had worked in emergency medicine for some time, paediatric emergency care on this scale was a whole new ball game. The newly opened paediatric A&E unit accepted patients from a wide area and not just from Dalverston itself. Built on a separate site to the main hospital, it boasted the most up-to-date facilities available. Everything was geared up for children, from the bright and airy waiting room, which sported comfortable couches rather than the usual hard plastic chairs, to the on-site Radiography unit. X-rays, CT and MRI scans were all carried out in rooms that had been made as child-friendly as possible. Colourful murals adorned the walls and the staff wore brightly coloured polo shirts instead of their usual uniforms. Even the gowns the children were given to wear were printed with cartoon characters and had easy-to-fasten Velcro tabs instead of fiddly ties.

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