Rescue At Cradle Lake

Marion Lennox | Harlequin | 2006

Top surgeon Fergus Reynard abandoned Sydney for a GP's life at Cradle Lake, hoping to soothe his broken heart. And indeed it is - by the laughter, dedication and caring nature of local emergency doctor Ginny Viental.

Ginny knows she cannot enter a relationship with this wonderful man in the midst of her own struggles. But Fergus will not let her run from their love of a lifetime - even though it means giving his heart to the little niece in her care too, and taking a role he thought he could never face again - that of a father.

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Rescue At Cradle Lake

by Marion Lennox

HE MADE the decision at two in the morning. There'd been no serious car crashes in the last few hours. No appendices or aneurisms, no ruptures, assaults or dramas. Night shift at City Central was deathly quiet.

He wanted it to be more so. No less than four nurses and one intern had used the lull to ask him how he was coping. "No, really, Dr Reynard, if you'd like to talk about it..."

He didn't. He glowered at everyone who came close, he settled himself in the staff lounge, and he concentrated on his reading. Specifically, he concentrated on reading the 'Appointments Vacant' in this month's medical journal.

"Where's Dimboola?" 'My aunty lives in Dimboola," one of the theatre nurses ventured. "It's in North West Victoria. Aunty Liz says it's a great little town."

"Right,'he said, and struck a line through Dimboola. There was silence while he checked a few more ads. Then: 'Where's Mission Beach?"

"North Queensland," the same nurse told him. "You remember Joe and Jodie?"

"Joe and Jodie?" 'Joe was the paediatric intern here last year. Big, blond guy almost as hunky as you. Six feet tall and yummy--every sensible woman's dream." She grinned, but in a way that said her compliment wasn't idle banter but was designed to cheer him up. As was everything anyone said to him at the moment. Let's look after Fergus...

"Joe married Jodie Walters from ICU," she continued, as she failed to elicit a smile. "They took a job at Port Douglas last year and that's close to Mission Beach."

OK. Fergus sorted the dross and came up with the information he needed. There were people he knew close to Mission Beach.

Another line.

He knew the next place in the list of advertisements, and the next, and the next. More advertisements were consigned to oblivion. Then: 'Where's Cradle Lake?"


This was hopeful. He gazed around, checking each of his colleagues for any sign of recognition. "Does anyone know where Cradle Lake is?"

"Never heard of it," Graham, his anaesthetist, told him. "Cradle Mountain's in Tasmania. Is it near there?"

"Apparently not. It has a New South Wales postcode"

"Never heard of it, then." 'No one knows it?" Fergus demanded, and received four shakes of four heads in reply.

"Great,'he said, and the line became a circle. "That's where I'm going."

Ginny got the phone call at two in the morning. She'd known it had been coming, but it didn't make it any less appalling.

Richard was ringing from his hospital bed. He hadn't wanted her with him when he was told, and he'd waited until now to call.

Who could blame him? Where could anyone find the courage to face news like this, much less pass it on?

"They can't do another transplant,'he said, in a voice devoid of all emotion. "The specialists say there's no hope it'll work."

"I guessed it must be that," she whispered. "When you didn't call earlier, I thought it must be bad news. Oh, Richard." She sat up in bed, trying not to cry. "I'll come." 'No. Not now." 'What are you doing?" 'Staring at the ceiling. Wondering how I'm going to face what's coming. And whether I have the right to ask..."

"To ask what?" 'Ginny, I want to go home. Back to Cradle Lake."

She drew in her breath at that. She hadn't been near Cradle Lake for years.

Richard had referred to Cradle Lake as home. Home was where the heart was, she thought dumbly. Home surely wasn't at Cradle Lake.

"Richard, there are no medical facilities at Cradle Lake. I don't think there's even a doctor there any more."

"The time for the clever stuff is over,'he said, so roughly that he made himself gasp for breath. It took him a moment or two to recover, gaining strength for the next thought. "I just need... I just need to know it'll be OK. Surely having a doctor for a sister has to count for something.You can do what's necessary."

"I don't know that I can." 'You can keep me pain-free?"

There was only one answer to that. The medical part was the least of what she was facing, and it wasn't her medical skills she was doubting. "Yes."

"Well, then." 'Richard, the house..." Her mind was spinning at tangents, trying to find a way out of what was inescapable. "It's been neglected for years."

"You can get it fit for us. If I stay in hospital for a few more days, you'll have time to organise it. We don't need luxury. I'm prepared to stay here until the weekend."

Gee, thanks, she thought, her mind churning through grief, through shock and confusion, surfacing suddenly with anger. He'd wait while she quit the job she loved. While she packed up her apartment. While she salvaged the wreck of a house she hated, and while she moved her life back to a place she loathed.

But at least she had a life. She closed her eyes, willing anger to retreat. She knew from experience that anger made pain recede. That was why she was feeling it now, but in the long term anger didn't help anything. Pain would always surface.

She couldn't let her anger show. Nor her pain. "Are you sure you want to do this?" she managed, and was thankful she was on the end of the phone and not by her brother's bedside. She didn't want him to see her like this. She was trembling all over, shaking as if she'd been placed on ice.

"I'm sure," he said, more strongly. "I'm going to sit on our back veranda and..."

His voice broke off. He didn't have to finish. They both knew the word that would finish the sentence. This was a family song, sung over and over.

"Will you do this for me, Ginny?" he asked in a voice that had changed, and once again there was only one reply.

"Of course I will," she managed. "You know I will."

She always had, she thought, but she didn't say it. There was no point in saying what they both knew.

The cost of life was losing.

SHE was lying where he wanted to drive.

Dr Fergus Reynard was lost. He'd been given a map of sealed roads, but sealed roads accounted for about one per cent of the tracks around here. Take the second track left over the ridge, the district nurse had told him, and he'd stared at wheel marks and tried to decide which was a track and which was just the place where some obscure vehicle had taken a jaunt through the mud after the last rain.

Somewhere around here, someone called Oscar Bentley, was lying on his kitchen floor with a suspected broken hip. Oscar needed a doctor. Him. The hospital Land Cruiser had lost traction on the last turn. He'd spun and when he'd corrected there had been a woman lying across the road.

The woman wasn't moving. She was face down over some sort of cattle grid. He could see tight jeans--so tight he knew it was definitely a woman. He could see ancient boots. She was wearing an even more ancient windcheater, and her caramel-blonde, shoulder-length curls were sprawled out around her.

Why was she lying on the road? He was out of the truck, reaching her in half a dozen strides, expecting the worst. Had she collapsed? Had she been hit before he'd arrived? He knelt, his medical training switching into overdrive.

"At last," she muttered, as he touched her shoulder. "Whoever you are, can you grab its other ear?"

Medical training took a step back. "Um... Pardon?" 'Its ear," she said. Her voice was muffled but she still managed to sound exasperated. "My arm's not long enough to get a decent hold. I can reach one ear but not the other. I've been lying here for half an hour waiting for the football to finish, and if you think I'm letting go now you've another think coming."

He needed to take in the whole situation. Woman lying face down over a cattle grid. Arm down through the grid.

He stared down through the bars.

She was holding what looked like a newborn lamb by the tip of one ear. The ear was almost two feet down, underneath the row of steel rails.

The pit was designed to stop livestock passing from one property to another. A full-grown sheep couldn't cross this grid. A newborn lamb couldn't cross the grid either, but this one had obviously tried. It was so small it had simply slipped through to the pit below.

OK. Trapped lamb. Girl lying on road. Fergus's training was asserting itself. In an emergency he'd been taught to take in the whole situation before doing anything.

Make sure there's no surrounding danger before moving into help mode.

On top of the ridge stood a ewe, bleating helplessly. She was staring down at them as if they were enemies--as if she'd like to ram them.

Did sheep ram anyone?

The girl obviously wasn't worried about ramming sheep, so maybe he shouldn't either. But maybe continuing to lie in the middle of the road wasn't such a great idea.

"I could have hit you," he said. Then, as she didn't answer, anxiety gave way to anger. "I could have run you over. Are you out of your mind?"

"No one drives fast on this track unless they're lunatics," she muttered, still clutching the lamb's ear. "Sane drivers always slow down at cattle grids."

That pretty much put him in his place. "Do you intend to stand there whinging about where I should or shouldn't lie, or are you going to help me?" the woman demanded, and he decided maybe he should do something.

"What do you want me to do?" 'Squeeze your arm through the bars and catch the other ear." 'Right." Maybe that was easier said than done. The woman was finely built, which was why she'd been able to reach the lamb. It'd be a harder call for someone heavier. Someone with a thicker arm. Like him. "Then what?'he said cautiously.

"I can't get my other arm into position. If I release this ear, he'll bolt to the other side of the pit and it'll take me ages to catch him again. If you can grab his other ear and pull him up for a moment, I reckon I can reach further down and get him by the scruff of the neck."

"And pull him out?"

She sighed. "That's the idea, Einstein." 'There's no need--" 'To be rude. No," she agreed. "Neither is there any need for me to rescue this...

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