Janni hasn't seen Nick Hamilton in a while so when they meet at a friend's wedding her first thought is to avoid him. She doesn't need to be hurt again. Yet as Fate throws them together again, Janni realises that perhaps this time it's Nick who needs her even though he might not know it just yet. He is often careless, sometimes taking her for granted and reducing her to tears. Janni will need to be strong as she puts Nick and his family before her own career as a nurse. Will he see her worth or will she lose out once again?
Oh, God, she hoped he wouldn’t come over! Janni had recognized the one man she hadn’t wanted to see at this wedding. It was ages since she’d been in the same room with Nick Hamilton, and she really hadn’t given the idea that he might be here a thought, though she should have done. It couldn’t matter, of course. Whatever there had been between her and Nick had been over years ago – when he married. Not that it had ever been very much even then!
Janni had been through several love affairs since then, the latest of which had recently ended in tears and recriminations. What was wrong with her for goodness sake? Why couldn’t she find someone who really cared, someone who would give her a home and family, and love – most importantly love?
Nick was glancing her way again, obviously deciding whether or not he ought to come over and say hello. Where was his wife? Janni hadn’t noticed her – and you couldn’t miss a woman like that! Sarah was gorgeous, so it was no wonder that Nick had fallen for her hook line and sinker.
Janni glanced across the hotel’s crowded reception room at the bride and groom; she felt a pang of envy despite her satisfaction at Alice’s obvious happiness. Sheer delight seemed to shine out of her friend’s eyes, testifying to her state of mind. Janni didn’t grudge that happiness one little bit, but couldn’t help wishing that her own life was a little more settled.
Alice and Peter were the perfect pair, and Janni had introduced them nine months ago. Her own lovelife had been blossoming then, but for the past few weeks she had been nursing a bruised ego. Fortunately, it seemed that her heart was pretty resilient, which it would need to be after the way Mark had treated her recently.
Perhaps it was a combination of seeing Nick unexpectedly, and her friend’s shining happiness that made Janni feel so dejected all of a sudden. Damn Mark! He really wasn’t worth getting upset over. One day he’d been eagerly talking about buying a house together, almost the next he was announcing that he was off to America on a three-year research project.
“So what happens to us?” Janni had asked, feeling bewildered by Mark’s sudden about turn.
“It was never going to be more than a temporary arrangement,” he’d said, taking her breath away. “Nothing is forever, Janni. Besides, this is a chance I can’t miss.”
He hadn’t asked her to keep in touch, or whether she would consider giving up her job at the local hospital to go with him. She had sensed his excitement and known he wanted to be free – and that had hurt!
The sharp pain had gone now, but she was still feeling bruised. So much so that when she saw the undeniably attractive man walking towards her, she immediately hoisted her shield into place. Why had he of all people had to be here? And why must he bother to come over and say hello?
She’d had a thing for Doctor Nick Hamilton once, when they were both working at a London teaching hospital, but he’d hardly noticed her. He had fallen in love with and married a very beautiful woman, and they’d lost touch when he moved. Until now, Janni hadn’t seen him for years, but he was a friend of Peter’s, and had been invited for the wedding. It was natural, of course, and she would have realized it if she had thought about it earlier.
“They look happy don’t they?” Nick said glancing at the bride and groom. “Peter and Alice.”
Janni took a deep breath. There was no escaping it! She smiled and nodded. “Yes, I was just thinking the same thing.”
“Peter had been through a rough time before he met Alice – but you know that, of course. You introduced them, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I can claim the credit for that, but they did all the rest themselves.”
He seemed amused at her quip, and hesitated for a second or two.
“I know this isn’t the right time to talk shop, but Alice tells me you are thinking of changing your job – going for something new. I wondered if you might consider working for us at the surgery as a practice nurse?”
Janni was startled. He had taken her completely by surprise and she gave no thought to her answer before replying negatively. “I am flattered that you asked,” she said. “But I am happy where I am – and I’ve never considered anything but hospital work.”
“The nurses I need never have,” Nick replied and grinned. “If they had, they probably wouldn’t be what I was looking for. Don’t make that a final no, Janni. Think about it please. If you are truly happy where you are then that’s all there is to it – but if there’s even a chance you might consider coming to us, if only for a few months, I should like to hear from you.” He took a card from his pocket and handed it to her. “I think you would be pleasantly surprised if you paid us a visit. We have all the latest equipment at the surgery. Peter has made sure of that, believe me.”
Janni's heart did a quick tango but she suppressed her foolishness.
Peter and Nick were partners in the country practice as well as friends, and Alice had burned Janni’s ears with stories of how beautiful the village was – and the surrounding countryside.
Alice had been a Theatre Sister before her marriage, but she planned on having a family almost at once. “Before my biological clock runs out,” she’d told Janni laughingly. “I’ve done my stint for the NHS – and I can always go back part time when the children are at school.”
“Yes, I imagine he would,” Janni replied with a wry look. “Alice told me Peter has to have everything just so.”
“We’re in agreement as far as that goes – which is why we both want you, Janni. Why don’t you think about it? Alice is your best friend, isn’t she? It would mean you were able to see her more often, and I understand you are having difficulties at the moment.”
“I see Alice has been telling tales out of school.” Janni frowned.
“She just told me things hadn’t gone well for you, and that you were thinking of making a change. Nothing personal,” Nick assured her. He glanced at his watch and frowned. “Anyway, it was nice speaking to you again, Janni. I must have a word with Alice and Peter before they leave. Give me a call if you are interested, won’t you?” He handed her his card.
“Yes, if I’m interested,” Janni replied, tucking his card into her pocket as he walked away. Her foolish heart was still misbehaving itself. Nick was as attractive as ever, she thought, dressed in a stylish, collarless dark blue suit that showed only a flash of white at the neck and looked as if it might be Armani. It was the kind of suit that was good on young, athletic men and she recalled that he had been keen on sport when she’d known him before. His hair was dark blond and a little longer than she normally liked on a man – but why was she letting herself think about him at all? He was married and she had no intention of getting involved again for a long, long time. Especially with a married man!
She waited until he had moved away from the bride and groom before going over. “I’ve just come to say goodbye,” she said, kissing Alice’s cheek. “You look gorgeous, love – and so does Peter.”
Alice’s white lace and tulle dress was very traditional, but she had worn flowers in her hair rather than a veil, and looked sensational. Once again, Janni felt a pang of regret. She’d been so certain she and Mark would be planning their wedding soon – but perhaps what had happened was for the best. Otherwise, they might have ended up getting a divorce before long.
“Keep your hands off, he’s mine,” Alice Lennox teased. “Have you heard anything more from Mark?”
“No, not since he walked out on me,” Janni said, avoiding Alice’s eyes. “He promised to keep paying his share of the rent until I could find a new flatmate, but I doubt if he’ll bother once he gets to the States.”
“Well, I think that’s rotten,” Alice said and her eyes flashed with anger on behalf of Janni. “He could at least have stumped up the rent until you got things settled.”
Janni pulled a wry face. She couldn’t help noticing that Nick Hamilton was no longer in the room. She wasn’t sure why, but all of a sudden Mark’s desertion no longer seemed to matter.
“Well, it just goes to show that Mum was right all along. She warned me not to move in with him. I should’ve listened.”
Alice nodded, then turned to listen to something her new husband was saying. Janni gave them both a little wave and left, keeping her smile in place until she was in the taxi taking her to catch the train back to London.
She hardly knew why she was feeling so down. She wasn’t still missing Mark, for goodness sake! And her mother had warned her at the beginning that it would end in tears.
“Move in with him and he will lose respect for you,” Mrs. Ross had warned. “Yes, I know you think I’m old-fashioned and perhaps I am – but I don’t trust Mark Hatton and I never shall.”
In her heart Janni had wanted a white wedding and all the trimmings, but Mark had been adamant. He couldn’t afford to get married and he didn’t see what all the fuss was about anyway.
“Look around you,” he’d said over and over again. “How many of our friends get married these days? Most of them just move in together – and look at Jenny and Paul. They lived together for four years, perfectly happy, then she wanted to get married so Paul agreed – ten months later they’ve split.”
Janni hadn’t been able to disagree with his logic and she had thought herself in love with Mark then … but now she wasn’t sure whether it was Mark she’d loved or the man she had thought he was deep down.
Janni’s mother agreed with Alice that she ought to make a complete break, find herself a new job and a new place to live.
“It’s the only way, love,” Mrs. Ross had told her. “Either that or move back home with me and take the train into work every day. And you were moaning about the high rent even when you and Mark were still together.”
“I certainly can’t afford it unless I find someone to share – and the lease comes up for renewal next month, so I shall soon have to decide whether to give the flat up or not.”
Janni didn’t particularly want to give up her job, nor did she want to move back home and commute every day.
She loved her work, enjoying every moment she spent with her patients on the postoperative ward, and counting herself privileged. People took medicine for granted these days, demanding more and more of their doctors, but Janni had never ceased to feel exhilarated and thrilled at the skill of the surgeons who performed near miracles day after day.
Yet recently the strain of working long hours, combined with a stressful home life, had begun to get her down a little. Perhaps she ought to have thought before refusing Nick Hamilton’s offer.
She remembered how attractive Nick had looked that afternoon. His smile had been warm and generous, and she had reacted instinctively out of a need to protect herself. She didn’t want to go through all that again!
Nick had been the first man to break her heart when he married someone else. Perhaps that was why Mark’s desertion had bruised her ego more than her heart – having had it broken once she was incapable of ever truly loving again.