A Touch of Christmas Magic Nov 2015


A family to heal him?

After a rocky beginning, midwife Bonnie Reid is surprised when the head obstetrician Jacob Layton offers her and her little daughter, Freya, a place to stay. Bonnie’s looking for a fresh start, but she didn’t expect it to be with brooding – and totally gorgeous- Jacob.

Family life has never been an option for Jacob – especially after his recent cancer diagnosis. Yet the Christmas magic Bonnie and Freya bring into his home makes Jacob feel more alive than ever! It’s supposed to be temporary, but can Jacob really let Bonnie go?

CHAPTER ONE

The little face stared back out of the window giving her a nervous wave from the new school. Bonnie sucked in a breath and kept the smile plastered to her face as she waved back as merrily as she could. Please be okay.

Her thick winter coat was stifling her already. Cambridge was unexpectedly much warmer than Scotland. She could feel an uncomfortable trickle of sweat run down her spine. The teacher came to the window and glancing at Bonnie, ushered Freya away. Freya’s red curls had already started to escape from the carefully styled pleat. By the time she came home later her hair would be back to its usual fluffy-head style. She could almost hear the teacher’s thoughts in her head Over-anxious parent.

She wasn’t. Not really. But travelling down from Scotland yesterday with their worldly goods stuffed into four suitcases was hardly ideal. The motel they’d ended up staying in was even less pleasant. The smell of damp and mildew in the room had set off alarm bells that it might cause a flare up of Freya’s asthma. With Christmas not too far away, she desperately needed to sort them out somewhere suitable to stay. And the combination of everything, plus dropping Freya at a brand new school this morning had left her feeling rattled.

The Director of Midwifery at Cambridge Royal Maternity Unit had been quite insistent on her start date. No compromise. The ward sister had just taken early maternity leave due to some unexpected problems. They needed an experienced member of staff as soon as possible. And she didn’t feel in a position to argue – despite the fact they had nowhere to stay. The job in Cambridge was her way out of Scotland. And boy, did she need out.

Working at such a prestigious hospital had appealed. Everyone had heard about the two hundred year old hospital and she’d applied one night midway between tears and frustration. When they’d emailed back the next day to arrange a telephone interview she’d been surprised. And when they’d told her the next day she had the job she was stunned. Things had moved at a rapid pace ever since. References, occupational health forms and a formal offer telling her they wanted her to start straight away.

Thankfully, she had a sympathetic community manager in Scotland who knew about her circumstances and had done a little jigging to allow her to take annual leave and special leave to let her only work two weeks notice. The last two weeks had passed in a complete blur.

This morning had been hard. There had been tears and sniffles from Freya, a normally placid child. She held her breath. The school window remained empty, it was clear the teacher had successfully distracted her.

With a sigh of relief she glanced at her watch. Yikes. First day and she was going to be late. She hurried back to the bus stop. Getting a car was next on the ‘to-do’ list. She’d phoned and left a message on the Director of Midwifery’s answer phone - hardly a good start for her first day on the job. But it couldn’t be helped. The woman knew she wasn’t arriving until last night and that her daughter was starting a new school today. She still had to hand some paperwork into HR and pick up her uniforms before she could start on the labour ward.

For once, she was in luck. The bus appeared almost immediately. Now it was daylight she could actually see a bit of the beautiful city she’d decided to live in on almost a whim.

Well, a whim that involved catching her husband in bed with her best friend. She should still feel angry and hurt. But all she really felt was relief. As soon as the ink was dry on the divorce papers she started job hunting. She needed a fresh start and there was something so exciting about coming to a historic city like Cambridge. She watched as the Victorian-style shops and Grade II listed buildings whizzed past and allowed herself to smile a little. Cambridge was truly an atmospheric city, seeing it in daylight made her all the more excited to get a chance to see round about.

The hospital came into a view. A large, imposing building based in the heart of the bustling city. A little tremor of anticipation went down her spine. This was it. This was where she worked. As the bus drew to a halt and she climbed down she took a final glance around the city of Cambridge. Her city. Full of possibilities.

This, was now home.

Jacob Layton was more than mildly irritated. Jacob Layton was mad. But these days, that was nothing unusual for him.

He hated disorganisation. He hated chaos. He prided himself on the fact his unit ran like clockwork. Any midwife or medic not up to the job at this prestigious hospital was quickly rooted out and dealt with.

It may sound harsh. But in Cambridge Royal Maternity Unit the lives of women and babies were on the line every day. He was firm believer that all expectant mothers deserved the best possible care and it was his job to ensure they got it.

This morning, he stood at the nurses’ station with his hands on his hips as his temper bubbled just beneath the surface. There was no sign of any member of staff. None of the white boards were up to date – he didn’t even know which patient was in which room. Case notes were spread all over the desk with a whole variety of scribbled multi-coloured post-its littering the normally immaculate desk.

“Where is everyone?” he yelled.

The frightened face of a midwife and junior doctor appeared simultaneously from separate rooms. The midwife hurried towards him, her eyes fixed on her shoes. The junior doctor walked slowly, obviously hoping the midwife would the get the brunt of Jacob’s rage this morning. He should be so lucky.

The midwife handed over a set of notes with slightly shaking hands. “I think this is the set of notes you wanted. I was just doing Mrs Clark’s observations. Everything seems fine.”

He snatched them from her hands and reviewed them quickly. Relief. Things were looking better for Mrs Clark. He raised his head, keeping his voice in check. “Good. Tell Mrs Clark I’ll be into to see her shortly.”

The midwife disappeared in a flash. The junior doctor’s legs practically did a u-turn in the corridor. He didn’t want to be left with Jacob.

“Dr Jenkins.”

The young guy’s legs froze midstride. Jacob flung case notes on to the desk one after another. “Ms Bates needs her bloods done, Mrs Kelly needs her bloods repeated, where is the cardiac consult for Lucy Evans – she’s been here more than six hours and how long ago did I ask you to arrange another ultrasound for Ms Shaw? Get it done, now!” His voice rose as the anger he was trying to contain started to erupt. He hated incompetence. These patients were in the best maternity unit for miles. They should be receiving top quality care.

The doctor’s face paled and he gathered up the notes in his arms. “Right away Dr Layton,” he said, practically scampering down the corridor to the nearest office.

He sighed. This place – normally his pride and joy – was becoming a disaster zone.

Ever since he’d diagnosed the ward manager with pre-eclampsia and sent her home with the instructions not to come back until she’d had her baby, this place had gone to pot. There were four other senior midwives. All of them excellent at clinical care – and none of them with an organisational skill in their body.

The Director of Midwifery had promised him that their latest new employee would be able to help with all this. But he’d just read her CV, and was struggling to see why a Scottish community midwife would be able to do anything to help a busy city labour ward.

But the thing that was really making him mad was the fact she wasn’t here. He glanced at his watch again. First day on a new job – after nine-thirty – and the new start wasn’t here.

The doors at the bottom of the corridor swung open right on cue. Bonnie Reid. It had to be. Jacob knew everyone that worked here – and he didn’t recognise her at all. Dressed in the blue scrubs that the midwives on the labour ward wore and bright pink trainers, she had her red hair coiled up on top of her head in a strange kind of knot. How on earth did she do that? That, coupled with the curves not hidden by the shapeless scrubs, reminded him of a poster he’d had on his wall as a teenager. He felt a smile form on his lips.

Was she nervous? Her hands fidgeted with her security pass and she seemed to make a conscious effort to slow her steps. What irritated him most of all was the fact she didn’t seem to notice him standing, waiting for her. Instead, she stopped at every room on the way along the corridor, nodding and introducing herself to whatever member of staff happened to be in there. She even disappeared for a second to obviously help with a patient.

Then, she appeared with a load of laundry which she put into the laundry bags, reorganised two of the hand scrubs outside the doors and tidied the top of the cardiac arrest trolley on her way past.

He waited until she’d almost reached him. “Bonnie Reid?” His voice dripped with sarcasm. “Nice of you to finally join us.”

Something flickered across her face. Her skin was pale under the bright hospital lights and he could see a few tiny freckles under her make up. She’d looked good from a distance. Up close, she was much more interesting.

She had real knock out eyes. Dark, dark blue. Not the pale blue normally associated with a red head. But then her hair wasn’t the average red either. It was a dark deep auburn. The kind of colour normally associated with Hollywood actresses who probably had a whole team of people to get it that colour. Almost instantly he knew that Bonnie Reid’s was entirely natural. She gave him the slightest glance from those eyes. And for the first time, in a long time, he took a deep breath.

It had been a long time since a woman had ignited something in his system. Maybe it was the dark blue of her eyes against her pale skin? Or maybe it was the almost look of disdain she gave him as she walked past into the treatment room and started washing her hands.

Had he just imagined it? No. Something in her eyes told him this was woman who had lived – had experienced life. She must be in her early thirties. As she finished washing her hands he glanced at her finger – no ring. It had been a long time since he’d done that too.

She turned to face him. “Bonnie Reid, new midwife at Cambridge Royal Maternity Unit.” Her eyebrows rose, “And you are?”

It was her tone. It rankled him right away. He’d never been a person to pull rank. “Jacob Layton, Head Obstetrician, CRMU.”

It was almost as if a box of chocolate or tray of cakes had appeared out of thin air at the nurses’ station. Just about every door in the corridor opened and a whole host of previously hidden staff appeared. Did they avoid him every morning? He’d need to think about that.

Bonnie didn’t appear to notice. She blinked and pointed towards his scrubs. “You should wear an ID badge, Dr Layton. You could be absolutely anyone. I expect all staff members I work with to be clearly identified.”

She was just here. His skin prickled. Patience was not his friend. In any other set of circumstances he might have said their new staff member had an attitude problem. But he got the distinct impression that Bonnie Reid was only reacting to his initial barb.

He didn’t know whether to give her a dressing down or whether to smile. “It’s Jacob,” he said quietly, “everyone calls me, Jacob.” Not true. Only the few people not terrified by him called him Jacob. For a second their gazes meshed. It startled him, sending a little jolt around his system. More than a year. That’s how long it had been since he’d felt a spark with someone.

She gave the slightest nod of her head and extended her hand towards his. “Bonnie. Everyone calls me Bonnie.”

As soon as he connected with her skin he knew he’d made a mistake. The warm feeling of her palm against his. Touch. That’s what he’d missed most of all in the last year. The warmness of someone’s touch. He pulled his hand back sharply as her eyes widened at his reaction.

“You’re late.” It came out much snappier than he intended. Her hand was still in mid-air, suspended from their shake. She drew it back slowly and her gaze narrowed as she took a deep breath and her shoulders went back.

She met his gaze full on. “Yes, I’m late.” It was clear she had no intention of giving anything else away. He couldn’t believe how much one meeting with one woman could irk him.

She was new. She was working in his unit. And, after talks with the Director of Midwifery, this was the person he was supposed to offer a promoted post. If - he deemed her suitable. Tardiness was not an option.

He felt his normal persona resume. The one that held most of the staff at arm’s length for the last year. “Staff and patients rely on us. Lateness is not acceptable at CMRU. I expected you here at nine am.”

It was the first time she looked a little worried. “I had to take my daughter to school. We arrived late last night from Scotland. She was upset. I had to make sure she was okay.” She glanced over her shoulder as if she expected someone else to be there. “I left a message for the Director of Midwifery, she knew my circumstances.”

Those words annoyed him. He’d saw her CV, but the Director hadn’t told him anything about their new employee’s ‘circumstances’. He hated it when staff used excuses for not being able to do a shift, or being late for work.

“We all have circumstances. We all still have to be at work for nine. Work is our priority. Patients are our priority.”

Her face flamed and her eyes sparked. “Patients are always my priority and I’ve already dealt with two on my way along the ward. Exactly how many have you dealt with while you’ve been standing there waiting for me to arrive? Hardly good use of consultant time.”

She was questioning him. She was challenging him and she’d only been here five minutes. He’d love to sack her on the spot. But they desperately needed the staff right now, and if she was as competent as she was mouthy, he’d be in serious trouble with the Director of Midwives. She was almost questioning his competence. Let’s see how she was when someone questioned hers.

“I saw from your CV that you were a community midwife in Scotland. It’s a bit of leap coming to work in an inner city labour ward. Don’t you think that might stretch your current capabilities? Are you going to have to refresh your skills?”

It was a reasonable question. At least he felt it was. He still wasn’t entirely sure why the Director thought a community midwife was a suitable replacement for their ward Sister.

It took about a millisecond to realise he’d said exactly the wrong thing.

Bonnie glared at him and put her hands on her hips. “Please don’t question my capabilities or qualifications. In the last year, I’ve dealt with a shoulder dystocia, umbilical cord prolapse, two women who failed to progress, a footling breech, a cervical lip and an intrapartrum haemorrhage. Is that enough for you?” She turned to walk away, then obviously decided she wasn’t finished. “And just so we’re clear,” she held out her hands, “I didn’t have a fancy unit, staffed with lots of other people to help me. These were home deliveries. I was on my own, with no assistance. Is that enough experience for you?”

Her pretty brow was marred by a frown and he could practically feel the heat sparking from her eyes. It was an impressive list – even for a midwife based in a busy labour ward. For a community midwife, some of those situations must have been terrifying. He had a whole new respect for his new midwife.

But Bonnie wasn’t finished. It was obvious he’d lit a fire within her and probably touched a nerve. Maybe she was nervous about starting work in a new hospital? Worse – he’d just called her qualifications into question in front of the rest of the staff. He hadn’t even considered that might not be entirely appropriate – especially when these could be the people she would be in charge of. Mentally, he was kicking himself.

“My experience with women isn’t just in the labour suite, Dr Layton.” Oh boy, she was mad. It was clear if he was patronising her, they weren’t on first name terms. “I’ve spent the last ten years looking after women from the moment they’re pregnant until long after the baby is delivered. I’ve picked up on lots of factors that affect their pregnancy, both clinical and social. And as a community midwife I’ve dealt with lots of post delivery problems for both mother and child. Looking after patients at home is a whole lot different from looking after them in a clinical setting. Isolation, post-op complications, neonatal problems, postpartum psychosis, depression, domestic abuse.” She fixed him with her gaze. “The list goes on and on.”

He didn’t want to smile. He should be annoyed. This woman was practically putting him in his place. But he couldn’t help but feel he might have deserved it.

He wondered how on earth she’d ended up here. She’d already mentioned a daughter. And she clearly wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. It was absolutely none of his business. But Jacob Layton’s curiosity was definitely sparked. He liked this feisty midwife.

He spoke steadily. “That certainly seems like enough experience. So what made you come down to Cambridge? It’s a long way from Scotland.”

She didn’t even stop to think. Her eyes were still flashing. Bonnie Reid was on a roll. “That’s the thing about finding your husband in bed with your best friend – it makes you want to get as far away as possible.”

Silence.

You could have heard a proverbial pin drop. Bonnie felt the colour rush to her cheeks and she lifted her hand to her mouth. Oh no. Why on earth would she say something like that out loud?

It was that darn man. Jacob Layton. It wasn’t bad enough that the handsomest man on the planet had watched her walking down the corridor as if he were undressing her with his eyes. Ever since he’d started talking to her he just seemed to have put her back up. Hardly the best start in a new job.

But Bonnie Reid didn’t take any prisoners. In this life, she meant to start the way she was going to continue. The part of her life where she put up with bad behaviour, indifference and rudeness was over.

Maybe it was the fact he was so good looking that was unnerving her. If she got any closer she was sure she’d see gold flecks in those intense green eyes. Or maybe it was the fact no man had even flickered on her radar since she’d walked away from her ex. Certainly not a brown-haired, green-eyed Hollywood-style hunk.

Her insides were cringing. She couldn’t believe what she’d just said. And it was clear from the faces around her that no one else could either.

But what made it all the more excruciating was the fact that the edges of Jacob Layton’s mouth seemed to be turning upwards.

He was laughing at her.

“Please come with me,” he said sharply and walked over, ushering her towards an office door with Head Obstetrician emblazoned across it, and away from the gaping mouths.

He closed the door firmly behind them and walked around his desk. “Take a seat,” his voice was firm and she felt a wave of panic sweep over her.

She hadn’t even officially started – was she about to be fired? “I’m sorry. I’ve no idea where that came from.”

Her stomach did a little flip-flop. It didn’t matter. It really didn’t matter but she’d just made a fool of herself in front of the resident hunk and her new boss. She’s just told him that her husband had cheated on her. It was hardly a placard that she wanted to wave above her head. She might as well be holding a sign saying ‘I’m plain and boring in bed’.

The humiliation burned her cheeks. Right now she wanted to crawl into a hole.

He fixed on her with those green eyes and she felt her skin prickle under her thin scrubs. At times like this she longed for her thicker white tunic and navy trousers. But scrubs were the order of the day in most labour wards.

He pointed to the chair again. “Sit down.”

Her feet were shuffling nervously on the carpet and she couldn’t stop wringing her hands together. Sitting down seemed quite claustrophobic. Particularly with Jacob sitting at the other side of the desk and the door closed behind them.

“Don’t ever speak to me like that again in front of my colleagues.” The words were out before she could stop them. And she wasn’t finished. “It was unprofessional. If you want to question my clinical capabilities take it up with me privately, or take it up with the Director of Midwives who employed me.” She waved her hand. “On second thoughts, why don’t you actually wait until you’ve worked with me, before you question my clinical capabilities.” She stuck her hands on her hips. “And maybe I’ll wait until then to question yours.”

Too much. It was too much. Even she knew that. The shocked expression on his face almost made her want to open the door and run back down the corridor.

Definitely not her best start.

She took a deep breath and sat down. “Look-,” she started but Jacob lifted his hand.

She froze mid-sentence. This was the way she always got when she was nervous. Her mouth started running away with her, the prime example being what had happened outside.

Jacob lifted his hand and ran it through his hair. It struck her as an odd act. Usually a sign of someone being tired or frustrated. Jacob Layton didn’t strike her as any of those things.

He lifted his eyes to meet hers. “You’re right. I shouldn’t have questioned your capabilities. But let’s start with the basics. Bonnie, I would have preferred it if you could have been here at nine this morning. It would have made our meeting a little easier. Is timing going to be an issue for you?”

She shook her head quickly, wondering if she should be offended by the question. “No. Not at all. This morning was a one off.”

He gave the tiniest nod. “I appreciate you just arrived last night, and, that you were asked to start at short notice.” His brow furrowed a little. “Do you have adequate arrangements in place for your daughter?”

She straightened her shoulders. He was putting her on edge again. Dr Handsome just seemed to rub her up the wrong way. “I hope so. I have a friend who is a registered childminder. She’s agreed to take Freya in the mornings and after school.”

“What about weekends and night shifts?”

Bonnie felt herself pull back a little. “I was told there was no requirement for night shifts – that you had permanent night shift staff here?” The statement had turned into a question. She had the mildest feeling of panic.

A wave of recognition flickered across his face. “What about shift work? Will that cause you a problem?

Now he was really getting her back up. She couldn’t fathom this guy out at all. One minute he was fiercely professional, the next he looked amused by her. As for the sparks that had shot up her arm when they’d touched…

She’d already snapped at this guy once. She didn’t want to do it again. It wasn’t his fault she was tired. It wasn’t his fault that the journey from Scotland had taken much more out of her and Freya than she’d really expected. It wasn’t his fault Freya had been upset this morning, or that the motel room was totally inappropriate for them both. None of this was his fault.

She wanted to respect her boss and get on well with him. He was a bit grumpy, but she’d met worse, and she was sure she could knock it out of him. She’d already embarrassed herself once in front of her boss. It was time for a new tact.

She met his gaze straight on. “Jacob, I don’t think you’re actually allowed to ask me questions like that.”

“Aren’t I?” He sat back quickly and frowned.

She held up her hands. “Would you ask a guy these questions?” She was so aware it was all about the tone here. It was a serious subject, but she was quite sure he wasn’t even aware of what he was doing. “What if I asked you, right now, about childcare arrangements for any kids you might have? Would that seem appropriate to you?”

The recognition dawned quickly on his face. “Well…no.” He put his head in his hands for a second and shook it. When he pulled his head back up he had a sorry smile on his face and shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry.”

She gave a little nod of her head. “No problem.”

She heard him suck in a breath and his shoulders relaxed a little. “I do have a good reason for asking you.”

She raised her eyebrows. “You do?”

He nodded slowly. “I do.” He was being serious now. “Valerie Glencross, the Director of Midwifery suggested we should offer you a promoted post.”

Bonnie sat bolt upright in her chair. It was the last thing she expected to hear. “She did?”

His gaze connected with hers. “She did.” For a second it felt like time had frozen. She was looking into the brightest pair of green eyes she’d ever seen. She’d been right. He had little gold flecks in his eyes. It made them sparkle. It was making her hold her breath as she realised exactly what kind of an effect they were having on her.

“She did,” he reiterated. “It seems your CV had already impressed her. I’m guessing that your telephone interview with her went well. She wanted me to meet you and ask if you’d consider being ward sister on a temporary basis.”

“Me?” Bonnie was more than a little surprised. “But you must have senior staff working here already. Wouldn’t make more sense to have someone take charge who is familiar with the set up?”

He gave a little laugh. “You would think so. Our senior staff are excellent. But none of them have the talent of organisation. Valerie said that before you were a community midwife you were a ward sister. I think she thought it would be good to have a new broom, so to speak. Someone who didn’t have any preconceived ideas about CMRU and could bring some fresh ideas about how things should run.” He gave a little sigh, “Our ward sister, Abby, has been gone less than two weeks and it’s chaos out there. She left sooner than expected and we obviously didn’t appreciate just how much she kept on top of things.” He gave his head a little shake, “I’m feeling bad. I’m wondering if the stress of the ward was a factor in her pre-eclampsia.”

“Is she okay?” It was the first thing that sprang to mind.

He gave a quick nod and Bonnie shot him a smile. “In that case, you’re not making it sound like my dream job. Shouldn’t you be giving me the hard sell? And after our first meeting – do you really want to offer it to me at all?” Jacob Layton wasn’t good at this. He was being too honest.

He groaned again and sat straighter, giving her a grin that sent tingles to her toes. “Let me start again. Bonnie Reid – from your extensive experience on your CV we’ve decided you would be great addition to our team. You’ll know the reputation of Cambridge Royal Maternity Unit. We employ the best obstetricians and midwives and are known as a centre of medical excellence. We have links with Cambridge University and are pioneers in the development and research of many ground breaking medical techniques. We have a great bunch of staff working in the labour delivery suite. We just need someone who can bring some new organisational skills to the ward.” He leaned across the table towards her, “How’s that for the hard sell?”

She couldn’t pull her eyes away from his. He was closer to her than ever before. She could see every strand of his dark brown hair. See the tiny lines around his eyes. And exactly just how straight and white his teeth were.

He nodded towards her. “And yes, I do want to offer it to you. You’re the first person to answer back in about five years.”

Boy, he was handsome. But there was something else. Something so much more than just good looks. Beneath the flecks of gold in his eyes she could see another part of Jacob Layton. There was so much more there than a handsome but grumpy obstetrician. He seemed the singular-minded, career driven type. But what lay beneath the driven exterior?

She returned his smile. “That was much better.”

He relaxed back in his chair and she was almost sorry she’d replied. “Thank goodness.” He was so much nicer like this. Why did he act so grumpy around the staff?

She took a deep breath. “I want this to work. I want this to work for me and for Freya. This a fresh start. I want to leave everything else behind us.” She rolled her eyes and gave her head a little shake. “And I definitely want to leave men behind. I just want to focus on my new job and getting me and my daughter settled.”

Jacob gave a little nod of acknowledgement as he tapped his fingers on the desk. “The reason I asked about your childcare arrangements – if you’re working as ward sister we’d generally expect you to work nine to five. You’d only occasionally be expected to work late shifts if there were staffing issues, and join part of the hospital on-call rota to do weekends.”

Bonnie frowned. “How does that work?”

“All of our ward sisters take turns in covering weekends. You’re not actually there as a member of the team that weekend. You’re covering the management for the whole hospital. Sorting out staffing problems, dealing with any difficult cases or issues across the whole of maternity. It usually works out once every nine weeks.”

Bonnie nodded. “That’s understandable. I didn’t have my childcare arrangements completely sorted yet. This would make things much easier. Lynn, would happily take Freya every weekday before and after school, and for the occasional late night or weekend.” She gave a visible sigh of relief. “This makes things so much easier for me. I’m happy to do the job – in fact, I’m really excited to be asked. I don’t want you to think I’m saying yes because of the childcare arrangements. But this makes things so much easier. Freya will be much happier if I’m working more or less regular hours. I’ll get to put her to bed most nights.”

He seemed relieved. “So you’ll take the job?” His voice went up a little, as if he were still a bit anxious she might turn down this fabulous opportunity.

She stood up and held out her hand towards him. “Of course I will. I’m a little nervous but am sure in a few days it will feel like I’ve been here for weeks. That’s always the way of it, isn’t it?”

He smiled again, this time the relief was definitely reaching right up into his eyes. His hand grasped hers. There it was again.

She hadn’t been mistaken first time around. Coming into contact with Jacob Layton’s hand was doing strange things to her skin receptors – currently it was the dance of a thousand butterflies. Just as well she’d made it clear she was a man free zone.

“Perfect. I’ll let Valerie know you’ve accepted. She’ll arrange for a new contract.” He held open the door for her. “Now, let’s go and tell the staff.”

Her stomach did a little flip flop as she walked through, but she couldn’t work out if that was the thought of telling her new peers about her role, or from the burn coming from Jacob’s hand at the small of her back.

One thing was for sure – CMRU was going to be interesting.


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