Dr. Ben Richardson is trying to make yet another new start, this time in the emergency department at a Melbourne hospital. It's been nearly four years since he lost his wife and unborn child--and he still hasn't let go. So it comes as quite a surprise to him when his eye is drawn to a beautiful pregnant woman on the beach.When Ben realizes Celeste is a nurse at the hospital, he wants to keep his distance. She reminds him too much of all he's lost. But Celeste is clearly facing this challenging pregnancy alone, and Ben can't help coming to her rescue. Being with her to deliver her premature baby girl finally makes him realize there's a future for him right here after all--if he's prepared to risk enough to claim it....
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February 04, 2010
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Excerpt from One Tiny Miracle... by Carol Marinelli
A new day.
A new start.
Walking along the beach, Ben Richardson was head down and too deep in thought to really notice the glorious pink sky over the smooth waters of Port Phillip Bay. He had been accepted for a position as Emergency Registrar at Melbourne's Bay View Hospital and would be there in a couple of hours to start his first day, only there were no first-day jitters as he made his way along the beach--after all, he'd had plenty new starts before.
This would be his fourth job in the three years since Jennifer's death... no, it was nearly four years now. The anniversary was coming up soon and Ben was dreading it. Trying and failing not to think about it, trying and failing not to constantly think how life should be, had they lived. Had he stayed put at Melbourne Central, had life not changed so dramatically for him, he'd have been starting to apply for consultant positions now. But staying there hadn't been an option--there were just too many memories there for him. After six months of trying, Ben had realised that he couldn't keep working in the same place that he had once worked with his wife and had accepted, after some soul-searching, that things would never be the same again, could never be the same again. So he had moved on to Sydney--which had felt right for a while, but after eighteen months, well, that restless feeling had started again and he'd moved on to another Sydney hospital. Only it had been the same tune, just a different song. The place was great, the people too...
But it just didn't work without Jen.
So now he had returned to Melbourne, but on the outskirts this time, and it was good to be back closer to his family and amongst old friends again.
No, he wasn't nervous about this new start--the difference was that this time he was looking forward to it, ready for it, excited even by the prospect of finally moving on.
It was time.
He had decided to live by the beach and take brisk walks or jog each morning... except on day three after moving in he'd already pressed the snooze button on his alarm a few times!
Ben picked up speed, even broke into a jog, his large, muscular frame belying his deftness, and all too soon he reached his destination--the house that he had had his eye on for a couple of weeks now.
While working through his notice in Sydney, Ben had made the trip down to find a home close to the hospital. Looking online, speaking on the phone with real-estate agents, he had found several prospects to view over the weekend, determined to secure a home before he started his new job--deciding that maybe if he owned a property then he'd be more inclined to settle for longer.
The real-estate agent had been showing him a typical bachelor apartment, a new development along the beach, with gorgeous bay and City views. It was bright and airy and had all mod cons with the bonus of a huge balcony which would be nice when he had friends or family over. It had everything, really, and Ben had come close to purchasing it that day, but, standing on the balcony as the agent sorted out the documents, Ben had seen the house next door. An older house, it jutted out a touch further onto the beach than the apartment block. The garden, which had direct beach access, was an overgrown green oasis compared to the swish decking and clear-walled balcony that he'd stood on.
Instead of looking at the glorious beach, Ben had found himself gazing into his potential new neighbour's garden. A huge willow tree shaded most of it, there was a slide and swing and a trampoline, but what had really caught Ben's eye had been the boat parked along the side of the house--a man in his forties had been hosing it down and he had looked up and waved as they'd stepped out onto the balcony and Ben had given a quick nod back, only realising then that the man had actually been waving to the real-estate agent instead of himself.
'I'll be with you shortly, Doug,' the agent called, then took a seat at the well-positioned glass table, sorting out brochures and papers and finally locating the contract.
'Is it on the market, then?' Ben asked.
'The house next door--is it for sale?'
'Not yet,' the agent said with a noncommittal smile. 'Have a seat, Dr Richardson, and we'll go through the small print.'
'But is it coming onto the market?' Ben persisted.
'Perhaps. Though, really, it has none of the specifications you outlined. That house needs a lot of work, it still has the original kitchen and the garden's a jungle...' Only Ben wasn't listening and the real-estate agent suddenly had that horrible sinking feeling that he was losing his grip on his certain sale. 'The apartment complex is maintained, regularly serviced, there's the gym and lap pool for tenants,' he pointed out, pushing what he assumed were the benefits of living here for this tall, rugged-looking bear of a single guy, with the title of doctor. He had been so sure that low maintenance was the key to this sale.
He was wrong.
Ben was fast realising that high maintenance would be fantastic!
This was a garden and a house he could lose himself in, what with house repairs and oiling decking. And how about a boat...? How much better to fill up his limited spare time renovating a house or out on a boat on the bay than to be confined to modern, sleek lines of the apartment or burning off his endless energy in a lap pool? For the first time in a very long time, Ben found himself interested in something that wasn't work, and, staring at the house, he could almost glimpse a future, a real future... So, instead of closing the deal and moving into the plush apartment complex, to the agent's obvious annoyance, Ben took a gamble, put his furniture into storage and rented one of the cheap furnished units at the other end of the street, prepared to sit it out till the house came on the market.
It was win-win really, Ben thought this morning as he walked along the beach access path to the front of the house. In that short space of time, the bottom had fallen out of the housing market and the developers were having trouble selling the luxury apartments. Already the price had gone down a few thousand, so, if nothing happened with the house...
For Sale by Auction
He saw the board and gave a smile as he read that the auction wasn't far off, just a few weeks away, in fact. And there was an 'open for inspection' scheduled at the weekend. Walking back toward the beach, this time he noticed the glorious skies and the stillness of the morning, seagulls sitting like ducks on the calm water, a dog running in and chasing them away. And then he saw her, standing in the glassy ocean, the water to her knees, legs apart and stretching, her hands reaching for the sky. She stood still and held the position and then slowly lowered her arms.
And then did it all over again.
God! Ben rolled his eyes. He had a great physique and made a very half-hearted attempt to keep it, relying mainly on walking a thousand miles a day in Emergency then burning it off with a swim, but this new-age, welcome-the-day-type stuff, or whatever she was doing...
Still, Ben conceded there was something rather spectacular about her lack of inhibition, something about her that made Ben smile as he walked.
And then she turned and his smile vanished as she bent over... doubled over, actually. Ben saw her swollen stomach and realised she was pregnant and visibly in pain. Picking up speed, he walked a touch more quickly along the sandy pathway and onto the beach--not wanting to overreact as maybe it was part of her exercise routine. But, no, she was walking uncomfortably out of the shallows now, still bent at an awkward angle, and Ben broke into a light jog, meeting her at the foreshore. He stared down at a mop of dark curls on the top of her head as, still bent over double, she held onto her knees.
'Are you okay?' he asked in concern.
'Fine,' she moaned, and then looked up. She had amber eyes and big silver earrings and was gritting her very white teeth. 'Stupid yoga!'
'Are you having a contraction?' He was assessing her. Not wanting to just dive in and place his hand on her stomach, he thought he ought to introduce himself first. 'I'm Ben, I'm a doctor...'
'And I'm Celeste.' She blew out a breath and then slowly unfolded. 'And I'm not having a contraction, it's a stitch.'
'Quite sure!' She stretched and winced and then rubbed the last of her stitch away. 'Stupid new-age stuff!' He couldn't help but smile and then so did she. According to my obstetrician, it's supposed to relax both me and the baby. It will kill us both, more like!'
He tensed, standing on the beach on a glorious warm morning, and was slammed back there again--just as he was almost every day, every night. Not all the time now but surely, given it was nearly four years on, too many times.
'So long as you're okay,' he clipped, and went to go, but she was holding her swollen stomach now with both hands and blowing out a long, slow breath. 'That,' Ben said firmly, 'is not a stitch.'
'No.' Her eyes screwed up just a touch and this time he did place his hand on her stomach, felt the weak tightening flowing around her uterus, and held his hand there till it passed, satisfied that it was nothing more than a Braxton-Hicks' contraction.
'It's just the baby practising for its big day.' She smiled. 'Honestly, I'm fine.'
'You're positive?' he pressed.
'If they get stronger, or start coming--'
'More regularly, I know, I know.' She gave him a very wide smile. The sun was up now and he could see her tan and her freckly face. She really did have an incredible smile... 'Well, thanks anyway,' she said.
She turned to walk along the beach, in the direction he was going, and as he started to walk behind her, he half watched her to make sure she didn't stop again, but she seemed fine now. Dressed in white shorts and a white tight-fitting top, she was curves everywhere, and Ben felt a touch awkward when her head turned around.
'I'mnot following you--I live up there,' he explained.
'Good!' She slowed her pace down. 'Where?'
'In the units at the end.'
'Since when?' she asked.
'Since the weekend.'
'We're neighbours, then.' She smiled. 'I'm Celeste Mitchell, I live in Unit 3.'
'Ben, Ben Richardson--I'm at number 22."
'You're at the quiet end, then.' Celeste rolled her eyes.
'Are you sure about that?' Ben said, raising an eyebrow. 'It certainly hasn't been quiet the last two nights. Fights, parties...'
'That's nothing compared to my neighbours,' she retorted.
They were there now, at the row of one-bedroom units that were a bit of an eyesore in such lovely setting. No doubt one day a developer would come in and swoop up the lot of them and build a luxury complex or a hotel, but for now they were just an old and rather rundown row of units that offered cheap rental and beach access--and were filled with backpackers looking to settle for a few weeks and the occasional regular tenant, which Celeste obviously was.
As they walked past her unit, it stood out from the rest--the little strip of grass at the front had been mowed and there were pots of sunflowers in the small porch.
Clearly this was her home.
'Thanks again for your concern.' She grinned. 'And if you need a cup of sugar...'
He laughed. 'I'll know where to come.'
'I was going to say you'll have to go next door. The doctor just put me on a diet.'
He laughed again and waved goodbye. Heading up to his unit, he let himself in, put on the kettle and peered around the gloomy interior before heading for the cranky shower, wondering if it would spurt hot or cold this morning.
He hoped her flat was nicer than his. It was an odd thought to pop into his head, but he just hoped it was, that was all. It was certainly as neat as a pin on the outside--maybe her husband had painted it. And hopefully she had nicer furniture than his landlord had provided. Still, that wouldn't make up for the noise...
Coming out of the shower, he could hear his neighbours fighting again and for Ben the auction couldn't come soon enough.
He made some coffee and smiled again as he spooned in sugar.
She didn't need to be on diet--she was curvy, yes, but she was pregnant. He thought of that lovely round bottom, wiggling up the beach in front of him, and just the image of her, so crystal clear in his memory, startled him, so that he immediately turned his mind to more practical thoughts.
Her blood glucose was probably high. She'd be around seven months or so...
He forced himself to push her out of his head, and wouldn't let himself give her another thought--till he drove out of his garage, feeling just a touch uncomfortable in his slick four-wheel drive, and saw her watering her sunflowers and waving at him.
He waved back--reluctantly. Ben didn't like waving to neighbours or, despite what he had said, dropping in for sugar, or popping over for a chat. Had she not appeared in pain, he'd have kept right on walking, have kept himself to himself--which was just how he liked things to be.
As he drove past, Celeste could feel her cheeks redden even as she, oh, so casually waved.
He. Was. Gorgeous!
Gorgeous! Well over six feet and broad, his legs were as thick and as solid as an international rugby player's, and that longish brown hair flopping over his eyes as he'd stared down at her on the beach already had her wanting to run her fingers through it. As for those green eyes...why the hell didn't they have doctors like that where she worked?
Then she stopped being twenty-four and single and remembered she had sworn off men for the next decade at least. Also, she was, in a few weeks, going to be a mum.