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‘Our saviour.’ Luke’s eyes caught hold of Abby’s and she took a deep breath. Five years on and nothing had changed. He could still stop her heart with one look. And it killed her. Because everything had changed.

The nearside door was open and Luke gestured for her to look inside. She bent forward, removing more blonde strands of hair from her mouth, and peered inside.

‘You’re not going to put me on that, are you?’ The words were straight to the point with only the slightest hint of strain in them.

Abby smiled at the pale face ahead of her and ducked inside the car out of the sea winds. ‘Hi, I’m Abby, one of the doctors at Pelican Cove.’ The spacious interior of the car nearly made her laugh out loud. Her entire Mini Cooper could fit inside the rear passenger space. She slid along the cream leather seats and looked at the familiar face next to her.

Jennifer Taylor was the darling of the nation. A feisty, intelligent lawyer, she had refused to stop working when her husband had become President. She campaigned tirelessly for human rights and wasn’t afraid to put her neck on the line when necessary. More importantly, she was also the first First Lady in nearly fifty years to deliver while her husband was in office.

Abby took in her short gasps, her grey jogging suit and trainers and her normally immaculate brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. The press would have a field day if they saw her like this— in all the news reports Abby had never seen this woman with so much as a hair out of place. She could see the worry lines across her brow and the fatigue in her eyes. She leaned over and took her hand. ‘I think the gurney is for the other guy.’ She nodded in the direction of the sweating, grey-haired man whom Luke was trying to assist out of the front passenger seat. ‘Do you want me to get you a wheelchair or do you think you can walk in?’

Jennifer looked up through her heavy eyes with steely reserve. ‘I’m walking.’

‘Okay, let me help you.’ Abby slid back along the leather upholstery and waited for Jennifer to swing her legs from the car. She slid an arm around her waist and guided her inside, surrounded on all sides by the black brigade.

Nancy met her at the entrance door and gestured towards a nearby side room. ‘I’ve set up in here,’ she said, pointing her to the room, which had been hurriedly filled with monitoring equipment.

Luke gave a shout at her back as the gurney went speeding past and into the nearby trauma room. Abby watched thankfully as one of her nurse practitioners gave her a quick nod and followed Luke into the room.

Abby settled Jennifer on the bed and swung her legs up. She pulled out the backrest and watched in amusement as Nancy refused entry to any of the bodyguards. ‘Wait outside, gentlemen. You can’t be in here while the lady is being examined.’ She shut the door with a quick slam and turned to face them, folding her arms across her chest. ‘They won’t get past me.’

Abby switched on the monitors and started hooking them up. ‘So tell me, Mrs Taylor, what’s been happening today?’ She turned her head to Nancy. ‘Can you take a BP reading and get me a foetal heart rate, please?’

Jennifer shifted uncomfortably on the bed. ‘Call me Jennifer, please, I hate formality. I started having back pain last night. Nothing major, just a general feeling of unease and nothing I could do would make me feel any better. Then at around breakfast time today, just after I’d used the bathroom, I felt a little trickle run down my leg.’

‘Your waters have broken?’

‘I think so. Dr Blair was going to check for me but then he started getting chest pain and…’ Her voice tailed off as tears brimmed in her eyes. ‘This isn’t supposed to happen. I’m only meant to be here to rest for a few weeks and then I was going to go back to Washington to have the baby there.’ She lay back against the pillows, resting her hands on her swollen abdomen. ‘Charlie is going to be so worried.’

Abby gave a little smile at her pet name for her husband, the most important man in America, and gave her hand a squeeze. ‘Has someone told your husband that you’re here?’

Jennifer rolled her eyes in response. ‘Oh, yes.’

Abby glanced over the notes Nancy was making of the foetal heart rate and the First Lady’s blood pressure. Everything looked good.

‘Don’t worry, Jennifer. We’ll take good care of you. I’m going to examine you in a few minutes to confirm that your waters have broken. Have you had any contractions at all?’

Jennifer shook her head. ‘No, just the back pain. It’s still there now.’

Nancy raised her eyebrow then moved quickly towards the door as it started to open. ‘Yes, can I help you?’ Her voice echoed around the room.

‘Just to give you these, Mrs Taylor’s medical records. Dr Storm said that you would need them.’ A black-covered arm appeared through the tiny space in the doorway, brandishing a thick brown envelope, which Nancy snatched away before banging the door shut again.

Jennifer slumped back against her pillows. ‘Poor Luke,’ she murmured. ‘I thought he was going to blow a gasket when he realised what was going on. I didn’t know what else to do when Dr Blair started having chest pain—he seemed the most obvious person to call.’ Her voice drifted off.

Abby felt as if she was missing something. ‘How do you know Luke?’

‘He’s my husband’s cardiologist.’

‘The President has a cardiologist?’

‘My husband has a doctor for everything— whether he needs it or not.’ Jennifer gave a wry smile.

Abby gazed in wonder at the most watched woman in America. She might be the First Lady but she was still a first-time mom-to-be, who was probably just as worried as every other potential mother in the whole world. Her waters had broken early and the first thing she’d done had been to phone a doctor for the man having chest pain. She hadn’t thought of herself first at all. This was some woman.

Abby gave a nod and slid the notes out from inside the envelope. ‘I’ll have a quick check over these and give our local obstetrician a call.’ She moved towards the door. ‘Nancy will stay with you for now and I’ll be back in five minutes.’

She stepped outside and directly into the path of six black-suited men. They seemed to be multiplying by the minute. ‘Excuse me,’ she said, sidestepping them and heading over to the nearby desk. She bent over to pick up the phone but was stopped as a firm bronzed hand slid in front of hers, picking up the phone first.

‘Hey!’

Luke shot her a dazzling smile. All white teeth and tanned skin. Just the way she liked him. Just the way she remembered him. More little sparks fired inside her, sending a feeling to the pit of her stomach like…like what? It had been so long she couldn’t remember.

‘Sorry, Abby, I’m first. I need to take Dr Blair to the cath lab. He’s a definite inferior MI.’ He waved the ECG under her nose. ‘Look at the ST elevation.’ Then he paused for a second, the smile draining from his face. ‘You do have cath-lab facilities, don’t you?’

Abby nodded as a look of relief swept visibly over his face. ‘Wait a minute, though, Luke. You’ve just come from Washington DC—you won’t have a licence to practise medicine here.’ Her brow furrowed. ‘Or is there some crazy dispensation for the President’s staff I don’t know about?’

He raised his eyebrow as the corner of his mouth turned upwards. ‘Yes and no. I can treat the President, but only the President, in any state. However, here…’ he swept his arm outwards ‘…I’ve just been lucky. I’ve been working with two of California’s universities and needed a licence to practise in the state. So don’t worry, Abby, I’m covered.’

She gave a little nod. ‘Just dial 032 and tell them what you’ve got. One of our nurse practitioners will monitor the patient for you and I’ll get one of the residents to come and assist you with the procedure.’

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