In this The Good Luck Hospital story, when surgeon Duc asks best friend and midwife Viv for help at his late parents’ Hanoi hospital, she doesn’t hesitate. Duc is the closest thing nomadic Viv has to family, but her platonic feelings for him are changing…into attraction! The clock is ticking on Viv’s time in Vietnam. Will she finally stay in the only place she’s ever felt home—by Duc’s side?
The shrill of the phone cut through the dark night.
Vivienne Kerr fought her way free of the tangled sheets, her brain desperately trying to make sense of the noise. Was she on call? Was this a home delivery?
By the time she reached for the phone she was shaking her head. No. Definitely not on call. Not tonight. She’d been on call for the last three nights in a row. This was her first night off.
Or maybe it was morning. Maybe she’d slept for more than twenty-four hours and was late for her next shift…
Her eyes glanced at the green lights of her clock. Three thirty-seven. Her heart sank. Nope. She definitely wasn’t late, and no normal person would phone at this time of night—not unless it was bad news.
She picked up the phone, sucking in a breath as if, in some way, it would protect her from what would come next.
She was practically praying that this would be a wrong number. Someone looking for a taxi, or someone with crazy middle-of-the-night hunger pangs that could only be filled with some kind of takeaway food, or even a drunken call from some guy she’d previously given her number to. She’d take any of the above.
For a few seconds there wasn’t really a reply.
Every tiny hair on her bare arms stood on end. She swung her legs from the bed and sat bolt upright. All her instincts were on edge. Her stomach clenched.
‘Hello?’ she tried again.
There was a noise at the end of the phone. She couldn’t quite work out if it was a sob or a choke. ‘Viv.’
The voice stopped, as if it had taken all their effort just to say her name. She’d recognise that voice anywhere.
‘Duc?’ Panic gripped her. Her best friend. Where was he working now—Washington? Philadelphia? She moved into work mode. The way she acted when everything that could go wrong at a delivery did go wrong.
‘Duc? What’s wrong? Where are you? Are you okay?’
Every tiny fragment of patience that she’d ever had had just flown out of the window. Duc. As she squeezed her eyes shut, she could see his floppy brown hair and soft brown eyes in her head. Duc. They’d met at a teaching hospital in London while she’d been a midwifery student and he’d been a medical student. No one could have predicted how much the crazy, rootless Scottish girl would click with the ever cheerful, laughing Vietnamese boy.
It was fate. It was…kind of magic.
A clinical emergency had floored them both. A young mother with an undiagnosed placenta praevia. Both had only been in the room to observe. Both had had no experience of a situation like this before. The mother had haemorrhaged rapidly, leading to the delivery of a very blue baby. Both Vivienne and Duc had ended up at either side of the bed, squeezing in emergency units of blood at almost the same rate as it appeared to be coming back out of the poor mother. It seemed that every rule in the book had gone out of the window in the attempt to save both baby and mum.
By the time things had come to a conclusion with mum rushed to emergency surgery, and baby rushed to the NICU, Duc and Vivienne had been left in the remnants of the room, with almost every surface, them included, splattered with blood.
Vivienne had done her best to hold it together. And she’d managed it. Almost.
Right until she’d reached the sluice room to dispose of aprons and gloves. Then she’d started to shake and cry. When the slim but strong arms had slid around her waist without a word, and Duc had rested his head on her shoulder, she’d realised that he had been shaking too. He’d known not to try and speak to her. He’d known not to ask her if she wanted a hug. He’d just acted, and they’d stood there, undisturbed, for nearly five minutes, cementing their friendship for ever.
But now? Fear gripped her chest. Duc hadn’t answered.
Worst-case scenarios started shooting through her brain. He was sick. He was injured. Something terrible had happened to him.
‘Duc? Talk to me, please. I need to know how you are. I need to know that you’re okay.’
‘I…I…I need you.’
She was on her feet in an instant, looking frantically around her room. She clenched the phone between the crook of her neck and her ear as she fell to her knees and pulled a bag from the bottom of her cupboard.
‘I’ll be there.’ She’d never been surer of anything in her life. ‘Where are you? What’s wrong?’
‘It’s…mẹ va cha.’
She recognised the Vietnamese words instantly. ‘Your mum and dad? Duc, what’s happened? Are they hurt?’
Her stomach clenched. She’d met Khiem and Hoa on a few occasions. They were a charming couple, completely devoted to the hospitals they ran in Hanoi and two other outlying areas in Vietnam.
Silence filled her ears and an ache spread across her chest. Experience told her that silence usually meant the worst possible case.
‘Duc,’ she stumbled. ‘No.’
She couldn’t keep the emotion out of her voice or the tears from pooling in her eyes.
She heard him suck in a deep breath, it was almost like he’d flicked a switch somehow. ‘I need you,’ he repeated. ‘There was a car accident. I’ve had to fly back to Hanoi. We don’t have another obstetrician, and I don’t have any midwives. I can’t do this, Viv. I can’t do any of this. I need someone with me. I need someone to help me. Can you come?’
So many questions crowded her brain. She knew there were good, reliable medics who worked at the hospitals. Khiem and Hoa were meticulous about who they hired. But she also knew that, right now, that wasn’t what Duc needed to hear.
Officially, she should give notice to her current employer. She hated to be thought of as unreliable. But this was an emergency. A family emergency, because Duc felt like family to her.
‘I’ll sort it. I’ll get there.’ As she started pushing random clothes into a bag her heart ached for him. Last time they’d spoken, a few weeks ago, he’d been full of enthusiasm. He’d started a new job a month before—a surgical and teaching fellowship in one of big cities in the US. She’d almost been a tiny bit jealous about how happy he’d sounded. Duc had a charm about him, he was friendly and good at his job. No matter where they’d worked together in the past, she’d always ridden a little on his coattails. Duc was the one who made friends and got them invites to dinner and parties. Viv was just his plus one. It was like he’d realised early on that she struggled with forming relationships, and he would do that part for her.
‘Thank you,’ his voice croaked.
It halted her in her tracks and she dropped back down onto her knees.
‘Of course,’ she said without question. ‘I’ll go to the airport. I’ll find a flight. I’ll text you once I have the details.’
She wanted to wrap her hands around his neck right now and give him the biggest bear hug. She wanted to breathe in the, oh, so familiar aftershave that always drifted into her senses when they were close. She hated to think of her friend in pain.
‘Duc?’ she whispered, before she hung up. She looked at the crooked little finger on her right hand. Years ago they’d adopted a quirky move from a kids movie where they intertwined their pinkies and said the phrase, ‘Friends for life.’ It had become a long-standing joke between them. She licked her lips, ‘Friends for life,’ she said huskily, then her voice broke.
There was a muted pause for a few seconds. This time he sounded a little stronger. ‘Friends for life,’ he repeated, before she hung up the phone.
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