She smiled. 'You have all the answers.'

He shook his head. 'I'm improvising. I don't know where this is going any more than you do. And it scares me just as much as it scares you. Only...I think not seeing you is marginally more scary.'

She said nothing.

Quietly, he released her hand. 'No pressure, Vicky. I'll give you time to think about it. If you choose not to see me, I'll accept that and I won't make a fuss. And if you choose to say yes—' please, please, let her say yes '—I'll cook you dinner at my place.' He paused. 'What shift are you on tomorrow?'

'Late.'

'Day after?'

'Early.'

He nodded. 'Day after tomorrow. Half past seven.' A little over forty-eight hours. That was giving her time, wasn't it?

And somehow, he had to get through the next two days.

CHAPTER SEVEN

They were on different shifts the next day, and Jake didn't get a chance to talk to Vicky. She didn't leave him a message either, so he had no idea what her decision was—or if she'd even made a decision. On Friday morning, she wasn't at the gym before her shift.

Was she avoiding him? Or was he just being paranoid?

When he did see Vicky, on the ward, she was her normal self. Cool, calm and professional. Jake had to fight hard to behave the same way; inwardly, he was a mess. Scared in case she said no. Excited in case she said yes. And so very, very aware of her physical presence. Even with the whole length of the ward between them, he could feel the touch of her skin. A memory so real it was tangible.

But memories weren't enough. He wanted more. So much more.

Please, let her say yes.

He managed to snap his control back into place during clinic, particularly when his first case was a baby.

Jeanette Saunders was sitting with her tiny baby in her arms, looking anxious. 'My husband said I was fussing over nothing, but my health visitor said I ought to get the baby checked out.'

An urgent referral: Jake had already read the notes. 'One of her eyelids is drooping?'

Jeanette bit her lip. 'That normally means a stroke, doesn't it? Our next-door neighbour had a stroke last year. But Tabitha's too young to have had a stroke!'

She was clearly on the verge of tears. Jake smiled reassuringly at her. 'A droopy eyelid could be all sorts of things. It could be a problem with a muscle or a nerve. Can I have a look at her?'

Jeanette nodded.

'Tabitha's a very pretty name.'

'It means "gazelle". We found it in the baby name book.'

Jake kept her chatting while he looked at the baby. Tabitha's left upper eyelid was indeed droopy—and there were a couple of associated signs that told him exactly what the problem was.

'Tabitha has something called Homer's syndrome,' he explained. 'It's a condition where the upper eyelid droops—you might hear medics talking about ptosis, which is the medical name for it. Look at her left eye—the pupil is smaller and her iris is slightly lighter. That tells me it's a congenital condition.'

'You mean, it's hereditary? Tabby got it from us?'

Jake shook his head. 'No, it means it happened around the time of the birth or even in the womb.'

'What causes it?'

'We don't always know. Sometimes it's caused by trauma, sometimes by a medical condition such as migraine, or sometimes just in the way the blood vessels develop as the baby grows. Basically, there's a blockage which interrupts the sympathetic nerve supply to the eye, somewhere between the beginning of the nerve in the brain and the end of the nerve in the eye.'

Jeanette's face crumpled. 'We had a difficult birth. I wanted to do it myself, but I couldn't—I had to have forceps in the end.'

'Don't blame yourself,' Jake said immediately. 'It might have nothing to do with the forceps.'

'Can it—can it be cured?' Jeanette asked.

He knew what she was really asking. Is my baby going to die?

'If there's an underlying medical condition that can be treated, then, yes, it can be cured. If it's congenital, then, no—but it doesn't mean she can't live a completely normal life. I'll need to do some tests first so I can be sure of the cause. It's going to mean a bit of hanging around, I'm afraid, while the eye drops work.'

'I don't mind. Just as long as she's all right.' The last word was almost a sob.

'It's always worrying when your little one has to come to hospital,' Jake said gently. 'Is she your first?'

Jeanette nodded.

'She's beautiful. And we'll do our best for her, I promise you. Now, what I'm going to do is put some eye drops in to see how Tabitha's pupils dilate. It's not going to hurt but it might sting a tiny bit and she might want a bit of a cuddle. Can you hold her for me while I put the drops in, please?' He could have asked a nurse to do it, but he thought that giving Jeanette something practical to do might help take her mind off her worries.

He put four per cent cocaine drops in both eyes: the right pupil dilated, but the left didn't. 'It's Homer's syndrome,' he said, 'but I need to find out where the blockage is.' He decided not to mention the possibility of a brain scan at that point—he'd only need to do that if the interruption to the nerve was preganglionic, somewhere in the brain stem or spinal cord, and there was no point in worrying Jeanette unnecessarily.


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